Category Archives: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

MOMENTS LIKE THIS (THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE, 1938)

This post is in honor of Luigi Lucaccini, Javier Soria Laso, and Nick Rossi.

First, data. Then, music.

and something even more unusual:

and . . .

On Thanksgiving evening, I published PLAY IT, TEDDY (April and August 1939)

which contained six sides that Teddy had recorded as a sideman with “Redd Evans and his Billy Boys” for Vocalion Records — great records I think few had ever heard.

But a little online research — my effort to answer the question, “How had Teddy or John Hammond or someone else heard of Redd Evans, and what had they heard that would lead them to offer him more than one record date?” led me to these listings in the DAHR:

Victor BS-019565 10-in. 2/11/1938 A shack in the back of the hills Lewis “Red” Evans and the Boys Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo director, vocalist

Victor BS-019566 10-in. 2/11/1938 Please be kind Bama Boys Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo director, vocalist

Victor BS-019567 10-in. 2/11/1938 Thanks for the memory Lewis “Red” Evans and the Boys Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo director, vocalist

Victor BS-019572 10-in. 2/11/1938 Thanks for the memory Lewis “Red” Evans and the Boys Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo director, vocalist

Victor BS-019573 10-in. 2/11/1938 Prove it Lewis “Red” Evans and the Boys Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo director, vocalist

Victor BS-019574 10-in. 2/11/1938 Moments like this Bama Boys Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo director, vocalist

I also found out that the February 11, 1938 session had the following personnel, some names completely unknown, others familiar to those of us who have studied the period: Russ Case, trumpet; John Potoker, piano; Art Ryerson, guitar; Syd Debin, string bass; Bobby Jones, drums. February 11, 1938, New York City.

I have been able to find nothing about Debin and Jones. Potoker was recognizable to me as a member of Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, and part of a Charlie Shavers date (1946) for Vogue on its short-lived picture record line. But the first record date I found for him was in 1945. Russ Case was famous — an early Goodman trumpeter, someone appearing with Teagarden, the Boswell Sisters, and Trumbauer. Most intriguing was this early appearance by guitarist Art or Artie Ryerson, explicated by guitarist-scholar Nick Rossi: Artie staking his claim as perhaps one of the first US guitarists to show an explicit Django influence! Ryerson told my friend (and journalist) Jim Carlton that he heard Django on record in 1935 and was influenced by him for the next several years. This, to my ears, is proof of that claim. Ryerson elsewhere in the interview was pretty good with dates by the way – even if he is off by a year or so (which he may very well be based on the research I’ve done around Django’s US record releases), that still gives him ample time to absorb the influence by the time of the recording in question. And who else WAS showing a Django influence in the USA on record in February 1938?

Luigi Lucaccini pointed the way to this gem:

and Javier Soria Laso added more delightful evidence:

MOMENTS LIKE THIS:

https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/200031157/BS-019574-Moments_like_this?fbclid=IwAR2wTkbwuUNTXkemqfTz2gMmQfi-Vn7p-pm15MbcIh4_cyq0LcljWYlch_A

and THANKS FOR THE MEMORY, in a two-sided issue so that all the verses could be included:

https://archive.org/details/78_thanks-for-the-memory-gracias-por-la-memoria-part-2_lewis-red-evans-and-the-b_gbia0037633

These sides are hidden gems in the best pop-songs-swung Thirties tradition. Yes, Evans was more confident on the later sides (or was it Victor’s microphone setup?) but the instrumentalists are splendid; the ocarina solos are delightful — not jokey at all — and the overall effect is polished and homespun at once. And we remember that these three pop tunes were classics in their own way — more memorably recorded, perhaps, by Mildred and Maxine, but touching. I am especially fond of Leo Robin’s wry-mounful lyrics to MEMORY, so true and witty at once; his niece told me a few years ago in conversation that the narrative came from her uncle’s very real heartbreak, and the genuineness comes through in every turn of phrase.

I decided to look deeper on my own and found the two remaining sides from the 1938 date, surprising myself.

PROVE IT:

A SHACK IN THE BACK OF THE HILLS:

If I’d heard any of those sides coming out of a record store speaker or jukebox, I would have been entranced, As I am now. And the gentlemen of the ensemble play so sweetly and easily.

And by the way, if you want what Germans call “the thing in itself,” a reputable eBay seller has the 78 of MOMENTS LIKE THIS and PLEASE BE KIND for sale — $25.00 plus 8.63 shipping) here.

Thanks again for kind erudite diligence, Luigi, Javier, and Nick.

May your happiness increase!

“PLAY IT, TEDDY” (April and August 1939)

One of the great pleasures of jazz recording and performance is the sound of Teddy Wilson, born 110 years ago today: a complete orchestra, every measure of jewel-box of shining details. The records he made with Billie Holiday have to be among the most famous in the last century, with his sides with Benny Goodman, Mildred Bailey, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Benny Carter, Louis Armstrong, Jo Jones creating a galaxy of pleasures.

But here are some sides from 1939 that few have heard.

They require a bit of speculative research for context. It’s hard in 2022 to imagine how violently the world, and, yes, the entertainment world, was racially segregated. Benny Goodman had broken “the color line” by hiring black musicians who would appear on the same bandstand, but the integration of those artists into radio orchestras and recording groups (as in “studio work”) happened very slowly.

One of the people fighting to break this barrier was John Hammond. I have a good deal of ambivalence about him: he created self-glorifying narratives, he played favorites, he had numerous agendas — but the results of his crusading cannot be denied.

At the start of 1939, Wilson had had almost five years in the spotlight from his work with Goodman; he made many small-group recordings under his own name for Brunswick; he even had a business venture, the “Teddy Wilson School for Pianists.” This was a transitional period: he appeared on a few broadcasts as a member of Benny’s band while his own orchestra was taking shape and broadcasting from the Savoy Ballroom.

Hammond tried, often without success, to stage-manage musicians’ careers (Ellington, Holiday, Frank Newton, and Rex Stewart are the most dramatic examples) and often those musicians grew exasperated and broke off the relationship. But I think he and Teddy respected each other, and Teddy was grateful.

One of John’s ideas was to slowly, subversively mix white popular artists with black jazzmen and women on record. So in 1939-41, Wilson was part of a band or the leader of his own unit for record dates with Redd Evans, Eddy Howard, and Chick Bullock. All of those sessions are rewarding and more: the mix of sweet crooning and hot solos and accompaniment is, to me, irresistible.

Of the three, Redd Evans is perhaps the most obscure, and his fame is now as a lyricist for NO MOON AT ALL, THERE! I’VE SAID IT AGAIN, THE FRIM FRAM SAUCE, ROSIE THE RIVETER, LET ME OFF UPTOWN, and DON’T GO TO STRANGERS. But in 1938 he made six sides for Victor or Bluebird as “Lewis Evans and his Bama Boys,” which I have never seen nor heard. (Anyone?) Here the connections become pure speculation. Did Hammond hear those records, or was Evans performing in a club or on the radio? Or did Evans reach out to Wilson or Hammond? A side note: an internet source says that Evans was a saxophonist and that he played the ocarina.

This just in, as they say on news programs. Luigi Lucaccini pointed me to the one “Bama Boys” record — on Bluebird — that not only delights but answers the question. It’s PLEASE BE KIND:

That’s perfectly charming — I want to hear all of them! And I can completely understand Hammond or someone else wanting Evans, a delightful singer and ocarina soloist, to record again with jazz accompaniment. The facts about this session are: Russ Case, trumpet; John Potoker, piano; Art Ryerson, guitar; Syd Debin, string bass; Bobby Jones, drums. February 11, 1938, New York City. Again, this is a worthy entry in the pop-song-swung tradition, and it shows that fine music was played by people who weren’t stars, although Potoker, Case, and Ryerson are certainly known.

So these would be called “crossover” recordings, mixing jazz and Western swing. And here is the discographical data, thanks to Tom Lord (I’m puzzled by the note that Evans sings on the first session but the vocals are done by “Hot Sweet Potato,” since Evans played the ocarina. But this doesn’t stop me from enjoying the music.)

Redd Evans (vcl) acc by tp, ts, g, Buster Bailey (cl) Teddy Wilson (p) unknown (b) J.C. Heard (d).  New York, April 17, 1939.
W24381 They cut down the old pine tree Voc 4836
W24382 Red wing –
W24383-B Carry me back to the lone prairie 4920
W24384-A Red River Valley –

Here are files (courtesy of the Internet Archive) of the first four songs.

https://archive.org/details/78_they-cut-down-the-old-pine-tree_redd-evans-and-his-billy-boys-redd-evans-raskin-eli_gbia0465068a

https://archive.org/details/78_red-wing_redd-evans-and-his-billy-boys-redd-evans-mills_gbia0465068b/RED+WING+-+REDD+EVANS+and+his+BILLY+BOYS.flac

https://archive.org/details/78_carry-me-back-to-the-lone-prairie_redd-evans-and-his-billy-boys-redd-evans-robison_gbia0446460b

https://archive.org/details/78_red-river-valley_redd-evans-and-his-billy-boys-redd-evans_gbia0446460a/RED+RIVER+VALLEY+-+REDD+EVANS+and+his+BILLY+BOYS.flac

The trumpeter sounds both fine and familiar: Emmett Berry, possibly?

Those four sides enjoyed some popularity — if you count appearances on eBay as a valid indicator. I have one of the two discs (OLD PINE TREE and RED WING) and made rudimentary transfers of the worn 78 for YouTube, for those who like to see the disc spin.

RED RIVER VALLEY and RED WING were classic Americana; the other two were more contemporary creations, with the light-hearted morbidity of OLD PINE TREE, which always catches me unaware.

The other two sides were both fascinating and elusive: the digital transfers are a gift from collector Peter J. Doyle, although I have never seen the disc. But brace yourself for BAGGAGE COACH, which is an ancient barroom ballad (Eugene O’Neill used it in A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN) much more morbid than OLD PINE TREE. This rocking version owes something to Jerry Colonna and the Tommy Dorsey “glee club.” It’s a favorite record of mine. And MILENBERG JOYS simply rocks: when wasn’t that the case?

Redd Evans And His Billy Boys : Willis Kelly (tp) Floyd Brady (tb) Reggie Merrill (as) Clark Galehouse (ts) Teddy Wilson (p) Al Casey (g) Al Hall (b) Cozy Cole (d) Redd Evans, “Hot Sweet Potato” (vcl).  New York, August 11, 1939.
25189-1 Milenberg joys (re vcl) Voc 5173
25190-1 In the baggage coach ahead (re vcl) –
25191-1,2 Am I blue ? (re,hsp vcl) (unissued)
25192-1,2 When it’s springtime in the Rockies (hsp vcl) –

and a less unusual composition:

Are these six sides imperishable jazz classics? Perhaps not. But Teddy’s work is stunning — a magical combination of ease and intensity. As always.

Thank you, Mister Wilson, for all you gave us and continue to give us.

May your happiness increase!

THEY’RE BACK!

This is AN EVENT.

I’ve been a fan of Vince and the Nighthawks for twenty years or more, and they are unique at what they do. And now, a weekly gig again!

Almost all of the shows are sold out, but tickets are still available for December 13 and January 3. The Birdland Theater is a compact space, so I suggest you get tickets without delay. Visit BirdlandJazz.com . . . .

You’ll notice that I don’t offer video evidence, although I often brought my camera to the Nighthawks’ gigs. They are too large, too splendid for a camera of my sort — and Birdland does not allow video-ing, so they have to be caught live, hot, in person. If you know them, you know, and if you don’t know, come and be uplifted.

See you there, I hope.

May your happiness increase!

INDIGO HUES: DAVE STUCKEY and THE HOT HOUSE GANG at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: MARC CAPARONE, NATE KETNER, CARL SONNY LEYLAND, KATIE CAVERA, JOSH COLLAZO (September 29, 2022)

Dave Stuckey is a beacon of swing and fun, presenting both while compromising neither. He lives the double truth, that jazz can be hilarious without being childish, and that entertainment can be high-level art, simultaneously satisfying. Before the band comes in, he’s set a danceable groove, and even people like myself, who leave their seats only when the set is over, feel it. Although Google Maps will tell you something else, Dave and the Hot House Gang are firmly situated at the intersection of Cindy Walker Drive and Fats Waller Terrace, which is to say the mid-Thirties meadow where sad songs were swung so hard that we couldn’t remember how sad they actually were. And he feels the music: no postmodern irony for this fellow.

Here’s a little Blue Suite, performed at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on September 29, 2022, with the best cast of characters: Dave, guitar, vocal, and inspirations; Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, tenor saxophone; Carl Sonny Leyland, keyboard; Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.

First, Fats’ BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU, which (as its lyrics would suggest) is usually slow, verging on the melodramatic (or in the case of Fifties’ Louis, the operatic). But Fats and his Rhythm made a 12″ 78 of this tune for Victor in 1937, completely instrumental and at a faster tempo. Dave sings it but also nudges it along into late-Thirties swing dance tempo:

then, almost without a break, into BLUE DRAG, which many know from early Django:

But no one in the audience felt blue. That’s what Dave does. What a spirit, and what a band!

There’s more to come.

May your happiness increase!

THEIR “MOST ENJOYABLE GIG”: JAMES DAPOGNY, MIKE KAROUB, ROD McDONALD, SHANNON WADE, DAWN GIBLIN (with thanks to Wyman Video): “CULTIVATE,” Ann Arbor, Michigan, August 25, 2016.

James Dapogny’s absence is painful to me, and I know I am not alone. The eight videos of him and the band he called PLENTY RHYTHM — thank you, Ferdinand — are joyous and poignant. I asked Laura Wyman, videographer and dear friend, to offer commentary, which she does beautifully.

James Dapogny

Laura writes:

Those Thursday nights were relaxed, fun, magical, and giddy while they lasted. It’s hard to believe a hundred people would cram into an old garage to talk, dance, drink, play, and listen to live music. Before Erin Morris moved, before Jim died, before Covid. But this life IS coming back – with most of the same players, carrying much of that music, adding new tunes, in re-opened and new venues.

Plenty Rhythm was started by Erin (on tuba, but you probably know her better as a dancer) and Jim Dapogny, about May 2016. Erin got them the weekly gig at Cultivate Coffeehouse (in Ypsilanti: Ann Arbor’s grittier, less-pretentious cousin, a few miles to the east). They dragged in Erin’s (or was it Jim’s?) upright piano, and Jim brought his music. He’d run a similar group several years earlier, and added more music to the books: 1920s-1940s standards, Dapogny originals, almost everything written in his distinctive handwriting.

The most important part: Jim said Cultivate was his most enjoyable gig – this as a “retired” professor who still had at least 2 gigs every week, and often 4 or 5. (Karoub said it was his MEG also) No setlists, no complicated choreography. Just calling tunes, setting the tempo by starting in, and playing with talented and inventive players, making things happen – and often getting fiery and/or pretty results. Regardless of money or listeners. (Though we see Jim, at times, looking out into the room with a “do you people realize what’s going on up here?!” )

(On that note, I like watching JD and MK work out stuff mid-tune, or Jim pointing to Rod or Shannon: “You’re up!”)

The group was always 4 people. After Erin moved to St Louis, Jim led the group, usually with Mike Karoub on cello, sometimes Chris Smith on trombone, or Chris Tabaczynski on sax/clar. In addition to the official 4, people always sat in – Dawn Giblin on vocals, and Chris T on reeds. It became a laboratory, where the band could try new (or new-old) tunes, in front of a noisy oblivious forgiving audience. All the players loved learning and playing together. There were always dancers in that tiny crowded space.

Cultivate paid the band $100 (a whopping $25 each!) and they divided the tip-jar. CTabs remembers Jim slipping him $5 for sitting in.

I guess that band is extinct now, though Chris S. still uses Jim’s black folders, and continues to add to the library.

I went every Thursday for a few years, but because it was so noisy, filmed only a handful of times. Jim suggested I put an Elizabethan collar around the video camera’s microphone.

I’d help Jim and Rod set up, then get a couple orders of toast (turkey/pear/honey, or PBJ), dark coffee, Chicago popcorn, beer and stout. The music ran from 7-10pm. The building was a former truck repair garage, converted into a community gathering place. The band played inside in cold weather, and outside in their beautiful flower & vegetable garden in warm and hot weather.

Plenty Rhythm stopped playing there in 2017. Cultivate didn’t survive the pandemic and is currently closed indefinitely.

Laura pointed out that the room was noisy. True. On one visit to Cultivate, in August 2016, I also shot video but the results were unusable. So these are a blessing. If you find the chatter intrusive, I understand, but I will bet that the crowd listening to Basie at the Savoy (insert your favorite band and time-travel site) was not hushed, even when Pres was soloing. Savor the music: this band will not come again.

For those making notes: the band performed twenty-five songs in three sets that night, and these are presented in performance order.

SWEET LORRAINE:

TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE:

CHEEK TO CHEEK:

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME:

OH, BABY!:

IF I HAD YOU, vocal by Dawn Giblin:

MY BLUE HEAVEN:

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN:


I think you can understand why both Jim and Mike Karoub said that this was their most enjoyable gig. These sounds are precious. Bless Prof, Mike, Shannon, Rod, and Dawn — and a special bow and hug to Laura, videographer, archivist, and friend-of-the-music, without whom this gig would only be something talked about in “Wow, you should have been there!” reverent tones.

May your happiness increase!

AT THE SUMMIT, or the CORK OPERA HOUSE: BOB WILBER, KENNY DAVERN, MICK PYNE, DAVE CLIFF, DAVE GREEN, BOBBY WORTH (October 1993)

Here’s a lively hour-long presentation (with interview segments) of the remarkable SUMMIT REUNION (which followed SOPRANO SUMMIT) at the Cork Opera House, during the 1993 Guinness Jazz Festival, presented by RTE. For this concert, the personnel was Kenny Davern, clarinet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, soprano saxophones; Mick Pyne, piano; Dave Cliff, guitar; Dave Green, string bass; Bobby Worth, drums.

And the selections performed were ROSETTA / interview / BLACK AND BLUE / interview / Oscar Pettiford line (?) [Cliff, Green, Worth] / PALESTEENA / station break / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / interview / TREASURE (Davern out) / interview / SUMMERTIME (Davern, Green, Worth) / ST. LOUIS BLUES //

I saw Davern and Wilber in person several times, and the heat they generated was extraordinary — as well as the subtleties when the building wasn’t in flames. And the British rhythm section is superb in the best Mainstream ways.

The Europeans certainly knew (and know) something valuable about the presentation and preservation of art.

May your happiness increase!

SOMETHING TO SWING ABOUT: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO and DANNY TOBIAS, PART ONE (Pennsylvania Jazz Society, October 30, 2022.)

Although I can calculate the tip without problems, math did not come easily to me in school, and at this late date, I couldn’t easily concoct an equation. But one occurs to me on a regular basis: let X equal travel and inconvenience, balanced against Y, the amount of pleasure I will get from hearing live jazz face-to-face. It is a very rare instance where I can say to myself, returning home, “That was not worth the trip.”

The equation came into play last Sunday. 2 1/2 hours in the car to get to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; 4 1/2 hours (Sunday-night traffic from New Jersey) returning, balanced against 2 hours of music, friendly community, emotional-aesthetic pleasures. What I and others heard and saw from Danny Tobias, trumpet, flugelhorn, and Eb alto horn; Rossano Sportiello, piano, was beyond delightful. The time in the car didn’t matter.

I know both hero-friends since we met, in different places, in 2005, and admire them greatly. But I’d never heard them in duet, and a fraternal playfulness and joy was immediately evident: two minds and hearts going down the same path, creating, laughing, striving. A harmony of individual energies.

Here are the first four performances from that duo-concert.

When in doubt, play LADY BE GOOD:

Johnny Mandel’s lovely EMILY:

a performance of I GOT IT BAD where Danny becomes an Ellington trumpet section:

and IF DREAMS COME TRUE, which could have been re-titled WHEN:

Look up SYNERGY online: the link will lead you to this concert. More music to come in future posts, I promise you.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, HOW THE GHOST OF YOU CLINGS”: DAWN LAMBETH (with DAVE STUCKEY, MARC CAPARONE, NATE KETNER, JONATHAN DOYLE, CARL SONNY LEYLAND, KATIE CAVERA, JOSH COLLAZO: Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 29, 2022)

Dawn Lambeth has been one of my favorite singers for more than fifteen years now. I’d never heard of her (such is the East Coast / West Coast divide in Jazz America) until I was asked to review her CD, MIDNIGHT BLUE, for the much-missed Mississippi Rag, and I was astonished. Her lovely voice, her warm phrasing, her love of the melody, her understanding of the lyrics — all splendidly touching. She swings; she embodies the great traditions but sounds like herself, understated and passionate at the same time.

And I could marvel at her work in a variety of contexts at the most recent Redwood Coast Music Festival. Here she is with Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang: Dave, guitar, vocals, and fun; Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.

Many people feel that singing isn’t, after all, so difficult. You learn a song by listening to recordings, perhaps you ask friends who play what key you are singing in, you hope to remember the lyrics and to not hang on to the mike stand too ostentatiously, the pianist plays four bars, you open your mouth — and look, ma, I’m singing! Nice clothing, good hair — also essential.

But this art is so much more complex, and it rests on the dual mastery of the song (how to get from one note to another with grace and personality, and then, how to courageously improvise and land well) and the lyrics (what do those words actually mean? what’s “the story” here? where should I take a breath?) and the deeper understanding of the emotions a song is meant to stir. I could be very wrong here, but an eighteen-year old might not sing THANKS FOR THE MEMORY with the deep rueful sensitivity that the song requires, in the same way that same youthful striver might not deeply understand the feelings of a literary character.

And there’s an even more difficult art — drama without acting — or how to make a group of people in a large hall, through your voice and gesture sent through a microphone, feel the nuances that composer, lyricist, and singer must convey.

I write this perhaps discouraging prelude to simply say that Dawn Lambeth not only knows how to do these rare things, but she embodies the art of communicating information and feeling while the notes roll on. We know, in the song I am about to present here, the joy of past experience and the ruefulness that the experiences are past.

THESE FOOLISH THINGS, by Jack Strachey and Eric Maschwitz (and perhaps Harry Link), has been sung often since its emergence in 1935, and inexperienced singers can make the melody a series of predictable steps, the lyrics a shopping list of sentimental fragments of memory. It has been sung so often that in the wrong hands, its sharp edges have been blurred. But Dawn reaches into the song, without overacting, and offers us the novella of love unattained but recalled that it really is. Hear her poignant variations on “You conquered me!” and know what this rare art truly is.

So moving. Thank you so much, Dawn and friends, for these tender, candid moments.

May your happiness increase!

UPLIFTING MUSIC, ALL AROUND: HARRY ALLEN and GABRIELE DONATI (Swiss Consulate, October 19, 2022)

The wonderful artist — whose work combines fantasy, comedy, and beauty — Ivana Falconi — has a show of her work at the Swiss Consulate in Manhattan (open by appointment until February 23, 2003). She regularly displays new creations on Facebook: see more here and here.

Ivana’s husband is the splendid tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, and he and the marvelous string bassist Gabriele Donati gave us a little night music. I recorded this on my iPhone because I couldn’t bear to let it go away into the air. “Splendid!” to quote our mutual friend and hero, pianist Rossano Sportiello.

I have had the immense good fortune to know Harry (thanks to Jazz at Chautauqua), Gabriele (thanks to the 75 Club, as well as his charming family), and Ivana (through becoming an art-delighter) for years now, and they repaid me and the OAO and everyone else in the room with beauty.

and . . . .

and the delightful sight-and-soundtrack:

Beautiful music is in the air; it surrounds us. Of course, it helps to be in the right place at the right time, surrounded by brilliant generous friends. Often you have to leave the house, but no surprise there.

May your happiness increase!

SEVENTY MINUTES WITH GERRY MULLIGAN, HARRY “SWEETS” EDISON, VIC DICKENSON, MARIAN McPARTLAND, DAVE SAMUELS, PERCY HEATH, ALAN DAWSON (Nice Jazz Festival, July 15, 1976)

People who draw “jazz history trees” love to create categories that are often divisive, at best restrictive. For those so inclined, whether critics, journalists, or “fans,” the art form is defined as discrete sections, painted lines in an aesthetic shopping-center parking lot.

The musicians laugh about such dopiness, and not only talk to their friends but play alongside them. Happily.

Here’s a passionate interlude that refutes such categorization, from the Nice Jazz Festival of July 15, 1976. The set was called “Jeru and some friends,” “Jeru” being the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, who made himself at home with musicians “from different schools” where and whenever he could, including Count Basie, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, and Joe Sullivan — and I am sure that is only a fraction of the friendly gatherings he participated in.

I love the fact that the common language is “the three B’s,” or in jazz terms, “Basie,” “the blues,” and “ballads.”

Nice Jazz Festival (audio only); “”Grande Parade du Jazz,” July 15, 1976.

Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Marian McPartland, piano; Dave Samuels, vibraphone; Percy Heath, string bass; Alan Dawson, drums. I FOUND A NEW BABY / NIGHT LIGHTS / WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (Marian, solo) / I’LL BE AROUND (Mullgan-Marian) / YESTERDAYS (Sweets) / TEA FOR TWO / SHINY STOCKINGS.

Miraculous to me, but common friendly practice to these wise feeling players:

“Ain’t that something?” to quote Bill Robinson.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, MISTER JELLY!” (Part Two): THE MORTONIA SEVEN LAYS IT DOWN at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: HAL SMITH, DAVE KOSMYNA, DAVE BENNETT, TJ MULLER, KRIS TOKARSKI, JOHN GILL, SAM ROCHA (October 1, 2022)

Mister Morton and Mister Smith

For the first part of this wonderful set, frankly irresistible — MILENBERG JOYS, SMOKE-HOUSE BLUES, BALLIN’ THE JACK — visit here. And here are the next three.

BLUE BLOOD BLUES:

STEAMBOAT STOMP:

MAMIE’S BLUES (vocal by John Gill):

A wonderful band devoted to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and the music he and his bands played — electrifying, exact, and loose all at once. Led by Hal Smith on drums, the Mortonia Seven is Dave Kosmyna, cornet and vocal; TJ Muller, trombone; Dave Bennett, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; John Gill, banjo and vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass and helicon.

Some words. Jelly Roll Morton was not happy to have his music popularized by others during his lifetime (think of Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, and others selling millions of copies of KING PORTER STOMP and WOLVERINE BLUES) but in some way there was a Morton “revival” going on for the last decade of his life. And with good reason: the compositions themselves are substantial, full of surprises that haven’t aged, and the recorded performances are fascinating marriages of hot improvisation and established structures.

But because Morton was such a powerful personality — man, composer, arranger, giver of dicta that should be obeyed — tributes to him have often not been easy or their results satisfying. Sometimes ensembles have been reverent and obedient: we must play it exactly the way the Red Hot Peppers did on the record, and those results are dazzling in their own way but I am not sure Omer Simeon would have liked people treating his solo as holy writ, to be repeated forever, with musicians subsuming their own identities in those manuscripts and recordings. (And Morton’s recordings have their own vivid force, not easy to replicate.) The other extreme, with a bunch of good people “jamming” on WOLVERINE BLUES and SWEET SUBSTITUTE, can be thrilling, but the results are at a distance from the exactitude Morton brought to his gigs and the recording studio.

The Mortonia Seven takes some and leaves some from both worlds: you can easily hear the outlines and structures of the original compositions and recordings, executed with style and grace, but the musicians’ personalities come through whole. And the result is lively, not studied — hot and sweet, raucous and melancholy, as the music demands.

There are more performances from this set that I will share with you. For now, I’m going to watch these again, mop my brow, and grin. Join me!

May your happiness increase!

“SEEKING HOME”: ANDY MacDONALD and FRIENDS

Before you read a word, listen and be charmed: ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK RAG.

To my ears, that’s a delightful mixture of two appealing jazz genres, loosely defined: “gypsy jazz” harking back to Django Reinhardt and colleagues, and “modern New Orleans,” best defined by one’s ears. Andy MacDonald is an inventive Montreal guitarist-singer-composer who’s always created melodic, light-hearted swing. And he has three new issues on Bandcamp — SEEKING HOME, One, Two, and Three.

Details here.

Andy has surrounded himself with players who float as he does: Aurélien Tomasi, bass saxophone and reeds; Bertrand Margelidon, trumpet; Joseph Abbott, clarinet and alto saxophone; Olivier Hébert, string bass and trombone; Jeff Moseley, guitar; ​​Drew Jurecka, violin; Kalya Ramu, vocal.

The three issues contain fifteen songs — and I mean “songs” in the best memorably singable sense — with a few standards, APRIL SHOWERS, and I GUESS I’LL GET THE PAPERS AND GO HOME. The overall effect is, once again, charming — looking backwards to Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, and Adrian Rollini as well as the Quintette of the Hot Club of France, all of them magically transported to a balcony in the French Quarter — but it isn’t recreation of past recordings or fixed genres. The music meanders as happily as do Andy and his (now-famous) “pandemic puppy,” named Duke Ellington (no, not just “Duke,” if you please.

Here’s another sample:

If I heard that coming out of a speaker somewhere, I would want to follow those sounds! I hope you feel the same way.

And a sweet whimsy based on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE and the notion of “Don’t buy sugar,” but with Montreal pride mixed in, MAPLE SYRUP:

And here are a few more snippets:

Melodic, unforced, and witty:

It is, as they say, music to my ears.

May your happiness increase!

LEO FORDE and FRIENDS: “DOUBLE WHISKY”

In the summer of 2021, Leo Forde, a young guitarist from Glasgow, living and playing in New Orleans since 2014, sent me a delightful new CD, which I praised here:

He’s done it again, with a new effort called DOUBLE WHISKY:

One no longer calls music “entertaining,” but this new CD is just that.

OH, LADY BE GOOD is an engaging sample, with legendary pianist David Boeddinghaus joining Leo, solo guitar; Ben Powell, violin; John Rodlii, guitar; Nobu Ozaki, string bass for nearly four minutes of time-travel . . . what if the Quintette of the Hot Club of France had met Teddy Wilson in 1937?

Leo and friends understand something about the genre termed “Gypsy jazz” that is not common practice. Yes, it is a music now often characterized by technical virtuosity. But even more, it is an embrace of melody and melodies. It’s ultimately not about how to execute Django Reinhardt’s gestures at top speed and even more ornately, but it is a passionate embodiment of the classic tradition created by Louis Armstrong and his colleagues. Even though there’s no vocalizing on this disc, Leo and friends sing out every note, fashion every phrase so it goes right to our deepest feelings.

Oh, they can bounce in the most sophisticated postwar ways — hear the title track DOUBLE WHISKY — but their joyous messages, their swing affirmations are never firing notes at the listener, who (even admiring) has to take a rest at the end of each track.

I say THANKS A MILLION — and the aural embodiment of gratitude is right here.

Details. Oh, details. The music is available here. The songs are MY BLUE HEAVEN / OH, LADY BE GOOD! / JUST A GIGOLO / DOUBLE WHISKY / THANKS A MILLION / IMPROVISATION ON TSCHAIKOVSKY’S ‘Pathetique’ / WHEN DAY IS DONE / LOUISE / I SURRENDER, DEAR / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? The recorded sound is warm and accurate, which means a good deal.

I can only explain the effect of this session, if it hasn’t come across to you by now, by saying it is like encountering a dear friend after a long absence. Heartfelt, playful, gentle sounds, a small treasure in this noisy world.

May your happiness increase!

GETTING FRESH: BENNY GOODMAN, TEDDY WILSON, LIONEL HAMPTON, DAVE TOUGH (April 25, 1938)

Although I have spent the better part of my life wholly immersed in this music, I envy those who are coming to it for the first time. Because they don’t “know everything” behind and around what they hear, they are able to hear the music’s energies and shadings in ways that those of us whose minds are portable libraries can’t. The more you know, ironically, the heavier your psychic knapsack becomes, even though some of those accretions are relevant and precious.

I imagine someone coming to the four-minute performance with no knowledge of the players, their personal histories, the cultural context in which this performance happened, and simply thinking, “That sounds wonderful!” They know nothing of “Benny Goodman”; they hear a clarinet, piano, vibraphone, and drums at once being expert beyond belief and playing like children, full of joy. Personal quirks and tragedies aren’t in that knapsack, merely exuberant bright thrilling sounds — the music of great artists having a great time, on the spot.

So I urge the most erudite of my readers to attempt an experiment. Put aside all the gossip you’ve heard about the players, forget your memories of perhaps seeing them live or buying your first recordings by them. Forget what you know or what you think you know, and drop down, trusting and blindfolded, into the rich irreplaceable sounds:

To quote Frank Chace about another clarinetist, “Doesn’t that just scrape the clouds?”

I could write a thousand words on what seems marvelous to me here, but I’d hope that readers take the pleasure of hearing this performance again. And before turning to their other tasks, I invite them to subscribe to the YouTube channel created and maintained by my friend who calls himself, not by accident, “Davey Tough” — a treasure-house of marvels, presented with care, intelligence, and love.

May your happiness increase!

A SATURDAY NIGHT, ABOUT FIFTY YEARS AGO: JIMMIE ROWLES, BILL EVANS, ELLIS LARKINS (Carnegie Hall, July 7, 1973)

I don’t know where you were on that Saturday night at 8:30 PM. Perhaps you didn’t exist. But I was in Carnegie Hall, close to the stage, for a Newport Jazz Festival in New York concert called SO-LO PIANO.

Even then, I couldn’t bear the evanescence of the beautiful sounds I heard in person, so I had been an illicit tape-recordist, if that is the term, for two years. My methods were coarse and direct. I had an airline bag over one shoulder, my father’s gift, inside it a portable cassette recorder, a decent Shure microphone, perhaps extra batteries.

In those innocent times, I was never stopped going in to a concert hall or club, and there were no metal detectors. When I got to my seat, I positioned the bag in my lap, connected the microphone, slid it and the wire down my jacket sleeve so that the ball of the microphone was concealed in my hand. When the lights went down, I pressed RECORD, sat very still, did not speak and did not applaud. Several friends may remember my odd behavior, all in service to the art.

When I got home with my aural treasure, I transferred it to reel-to-reel tape to edit it, however crudely, and it was the way I could make the mortal, the transient, immortal — something that would never go away and could be visited any time.

What follows is precious to me — a glimpse into a world that no longer exists. And since I have yet to find a more formal source, it seems irreplaceable.

BUT, and it is a huge pause, if the listener comes to it expecting clean digital sound, they should, to quote Chaucer, turn over the leaf and choose another page. The cassette recorder had a limited range; there is a good deal of “air” in the aural ambiance, and the undercurrent of some 3600 people inhaling, exhaling, gently shifting in their seats. The good news is that the piano seems well-tuned, and the only amplification is of master of ceremonies’ Billy Taylor’s microphone. (Carnegie Hall’s sound crew had done violence to pianos in the 1972 concert series; they had learned well by July 1973.)

So, please: if your first response is, “Michael, why didn’t you learn how to improve the sound?” or “Send me that tape and I will fix it for you,” read Hawthorne’s THE BIRTHMARK or get up from your chair and watch the cardinals at the feeder. Or simply imagine you are hearing precious music from another room, and be grateful that it exists. End of sermon.

I offer you thirty-five minutes of joy and wisdom and splendor, captured illicitly and with love. You will notice the audience applauds when they “recognize the tune.” But there were adults in attendance, thus reverent silence during performances. I don’t hear program-rattling or coughing. Blessings on my fellow July 1973 concert-goers. AND the heroes onstage.

Jimmie Rowles: THE MAN I LOVE – BEAUTIFUL LOVE – JITTERBUG WALTZ / EMALINE / LIZA – MY BUDDY //

Bill Evans: I LOVES YOU, PORGY / HULLO BOLINAS / BUT BEAUTIFUL //

Ellis Larkins: HOW’D’JA LIKE TO LOVE ME? / I WANT A LITTLE GIRL / BY MYSELF //

Is it too self-absorbed of me to be happy I was there on that July evening and am still working for this music, in awe? Perhaps. But I hope you are happy that this tape was created and that it can be shared.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, MISTER JELLY!” (Part One): THE MORTONIA SEVEN LAYS IT DOWN at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: HAL SMITH, DAVE KOSMYNA, DAVE BENNETT, TJ MULLER, KRIS TOKARSKI, JOHN GILL, SAM ROCHA (October 1, 2022)

Mister Morton and Mister Smith

Get ready for the room temperature to increase steadily. Music first, words after.

MILENBERG JOYS (vocal by John Gill):

SMOKE-HOUSE BLUES:

BALLIN’ THE JACK (vocal by Dave Kosmyna):

A wonderful band devoted to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and the music he and his bands played — electrifying, exact, and loose all at once. Led by Hal Smith on drums, the Mortonia Seven is Dave Kosmyna, cornet and vocal; TJ Muller, trombone; Dave Bennett, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; John Gill, banjo and vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass and helicon.

Some words. Jelly Roll Morton was not happy to have his music popularized by others during his lifetime (think of Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, and others selling millions of copies of KING PORTER STOMP and WOLVERINE BLUES) but in some way there was a Morton “revival” going on for the last decade of his life. And with good reason: the compositions themselves are substantial, full of surprises that haven’t aged, and the recorded performances are fascinating marriages of hot improvisation and established structures.

But because Morton was such a powerful personality — man, composer, arranger, giver of dicta that should be obeyed — tributes to him have often not been easy or their results satisfying. Sometimes ensembles have been reverent and obedient: we must play it exactly the way the Red Hot Peppers did on the record, and those results are dazzling in their own way but I am not sure Omer Simeon would have liked people treating his solo as holy writ, to be repeated forever, with musicians subsuming their own identities in those manuscripts and recordings. (And Morton’s recordings have their own vivid force, not easy to replicate.) The other extreme, with a bunch of good people “jamming” on WOLVERINE BLUES and SWEET SUBSTITUTE, can be thrilling, but the results are at a distance from the exactitude Morton brought to his gigs and the recording studio.

The Mortonia Seven takes some and leaves some from both worlds: you can easily hear the outlines and structures of the original compositions and recordings, executed with style and grace, but the musicians’ personalities come through whole. And the result is lively, not studied — hot and sweet, raucous and melancholy, as the music demands.

There are a half-dozen more performances from this set that I will share with you. For now, I’m going to watch these three again, mop my brow, and grin. Join me!

May your happiness increase!

DAVE STUCKEY and THE HOT HOUSE GANG PREACH A MELLOW SERMON AGAINST HYPOCRISIES (Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 30, 2022)

Try to behave better, will you?

WHY DON’T YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH has a strong pedigree: recordings by Henry “Red” Allen, the Boswell Sisters, Adrian’s Ramblers, 1934 dance bands, and more. (There are two delightfully odd versions on YouTube — a 1935 duet on film by vaudevillians Blossom Seeley and Benny Davis, and a nearly surrealistic piano / vocal explosion by Speckled Red . . . for you to investigate as you might.)

I suspect that the gentleman in the drawing is “all alone by the telephone,” waiting for the call, promised, that hasn’t arrived.

And for those who want to learn the verse or see the original chords, here is a sample of what people in 1934 would have to practice:

I am certain that the stern patriarch of American popular song, Alec Wilder, would have furrowed his brow over this one: its limited melody, relying on simple patterns and repeated notes (a particular Wilder irritation), and its conversational lyrics with perhaps predictable rhymes. But one could say some of the same things about a number of Berlin songs, and PREACH sticks in the mind. Is it because it is singable? Or is the easy colloquial nature of the lyrics part of the charm — one can imagine a writer in the Brill Building saying in a cranky voice, “For God’s sake, Harry, why don’t you practice what you preach?” and Harry, as they did in films, pushing his fedora back from his forehead and saying, “Say that again. We got a song there!”

But I think the appeal of the song is its light-hearted but serious approach to a universal situation. Who among us has been promised something — and I don’t mean thin-crust pizza, but fidelity, devotion, monogamy — to find that the verbal promise was not matched by behavior. This isn’t a “You lied to me and now it’s all over” aria, but it is, “Why don’t you cut out what you’re doing and be straight with me?” which is all too often the song in our heads.

This performance comes from the second set the OAO and I enjoyed at the Redwood Coast Music Festival: Dave Stuckey, guitar, voice, and focused enthusiasm, led his Hot House Gang: Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, tenor saxophone; Carl Sonny Leyland, keyboard, Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums, with the very special guest Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and tenor saxophone. I have heard Dave perform this song before, so I was ready for joy, and I was entranced by the “right” tempo, the glee club effects, the general we’re-rockin’-this-town spirit, all the way to the vocal triple ending. I loved it in the moment and I love it now. I hope you dig it too:

So swing out. But heed the sermon of Deacon Stuckey. Get yourself together. It’s easier to tell the truth. Collect friends, not enemies. And don’t let your mouth write checks your tail feathers can’t cash. Amen, brothers and sisters.

See you at the 2023 Redwood Coast Music Festival . . . even if you bring all your sins with you in checked luggage.

May your happiness increase!

ALICE SPENCER SINGS AND WE ARE GLAD (with Hal Smith, Kris Tokarski, James Singleton, Marc Caparone)

Cover art by Sarah Greene Reed

I am delighted to report that the wonderful singer Alice Spencer has just issued her first solo session — on Hal Smith’s TUXEDO CAT label — called SING IT WAY DOWN LOW. She has the eminently groovy support of Marc Caparone, cornet; Kris Tokarski, piano; James Singleton, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. And you can purchase the download and hear samples here. I’m a fan — no, more a devotee — and here are my notes to the session:

I remember very clearly the first time I heard Alice Spencer (on disc: I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering her in person).  My reaction was loud pleased astonishment, and the expurgated version would read: “Who in the sacred name of Jack Kapp is she?”   

“Jazz singers” proliferate these days, but some seem to have given more thought to their hair stylist or their cover photograph than to the music.  Alice’s love for this music and this period bubbles up on every track.

For me the great singer-virtues are a deep understanding of the emotional content of the lyrics — without jokes on one hand or melodrama on the other.  An unforced swing, a willingness to improvise without undermining melody or lyrics, plain-spoken diction, and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to convey joy.  

We gravitate to music that doesn’t hurt our feelings, or our ears.  Alice understands that as well as embodying it.  

This disc reminds me, perhaps at an unusual angle, of the miracles Basie and friends created, imbuing the saddest song (hear DRAGGIN’ MY HEART AROUND) with a wink at the listener (“Isn’t it fun to swing along so gloomily?”) or reminding us that there is a touch of melancholy in any elation.  

I’d direct you first to I HATE TO LEAVE YOU NOW, one of the gorgeous Thirties songs (linked to Fats and Louis, one of the ideal combinations of Western civilization) that are the gems in the constellation of this disc.  What I hear, and I hope you do also, is a rare combination of emotional intelligence — Alice knows how to feel, how to tell a story in song — and light-heartedness.  

Her art is both delicate and sincere.  She doesn’t have to take off her shoe and hit us over the head, but we know the tale of hope, longing, and ardor the song, and she, convey.  And the subtly memorable variations on the theme between her first and second choruses are a Jazz Studies program in themselves.  No, better.

It’s also clear that although this might not be Alice’s conventional repertoire (the wonderful program is inspired by the deep listening of Hal Smith, scholar and swing percussionist) that she is being herself on every performance.  Yes, I hear echoes of young Ella and of Helen Humes and Connee, but Alice has not spent her evenings mimicking them.  What Louis called TONATION and PHRASING are all hers, and they touch our hearts in each phrase. Hear her “I need you!” in BABY, WHERE CAN YOU BE?  The way she handles the verse to SUNDAY, rising to pure pleasure at the end.  Wow is what I say.  The wistful tenderness of THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION and HOW CAN I?  The “It’s my birthday today!” delight of I’M HAVING MY FUN.  To paraphrase Whitney Balliett, Alice is a great actress who doesn’t need a script.

The same mastery comes through in the instrumentalists who join Alice on her musical journeys.  No one needs multiple choruses to tell their tale.  Perhaps you’ll hear echoes of the great Holiday-Wilson sessions, of Bing, Jack, Louis: I could call the names of the Heroic Ancestors who have informed the music of honored individualists Marc, Kris, James, and Hal, but I’ll leave that to you — what Barbara Lea called “Sounding Like.”  A lifetime research project with a lifetime of rewards.        

If these notes go on too long, I might get in the way of your absorbing the delights captured here, not once but many times.  In an extended California sojourn, I learned about “sound healing,” how the right vibrations could put a psychically lopsided being into happy balance.  I think that Doctor Spencer and her practitioners have just the remedy for what ails us, and I hope the prescription is renewable for many more sessions.      

I confess that I held myself back in writing the words above, for fear of hyperbole, but I think this session is a triumph — aesthetically and emotionally — and I hope enough of us agree so that there are more sessions to come. I didn’t list the songs, but here they are: WHEN MY SUGAR WALKS DOWN THE STREET / I JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT, BABY / BELIEVE IT, BELOVED / I HATE TO LEAVE YOU NOW / BLUE RIVER / BABY, OH WHERE CAN YOU BE? / SUNDAY / HOW CAN I (With You in My Heart)? / SING IT WAY DOWN LOW / THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION / I’M HAVING MY FUN / SAY IT SIMPLE / DRAGGIN’ MY HEART AROUND / I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU.

The digital download costs very little, and it is your introduction to Alice Spencer and the swinging affection she inspires among these fine musicians. You will arise from listening feeling gratified. Again, here is the link.

And for those who, like me, are utterly captivated, here’s more evidence, Alice with Hal and Kris, Clint Baker, Sam Rocha, Bill Reinhart, Loren Schoenberg:

and one more, with Nick Rossi on guitar:

May your happiness increase!

“KEEP STOMPIN’, BOY!”: MARC CAPARONE AND HIS BACK O’TOWN ALL-STARS (Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 30, 2022)

“Mahogany Hall,” Lulu White’s ‘Octoroon Parlour,'” photograph by E. J. Bellocq:

The Spencer Williams composition it inspired:

Into the present for a band modeled on Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, majestically. Marc Caparone, trumpet, vocal; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.

Marc Caparone

They performed two sets at the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka, California, and the wondrous seismic uproar hasn’t quieted down yet.

Power and delicacy, an eye to the details and a rollicking energy. More to come!

May your happiness increase!

THE SOUNDS WE HEARD LAST WEEKEND

. . . we’ll remember all winter long. No videos yet, just some words. Oh, and a portrait.

Twerk Thomson and Jonathan Doyle.

Thursday night, two sets in a row by Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang, which began with Dave (vocal, guitar, ebullience) and Marc Caparone, Nate Ketner, Carl Sonny Leyland, Katie Cavera, Josh Collazo — featuring memorable Thirties classics such as GOT A BRAN’ NEW SUIT — and then adding Jonathan Doyle for a set that offered a choral vocal on WHY DON’T YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH? — a song whose rendition led many in the audience to closely consider their past hypocrisies.

Friday, after brief subversive explorations of Willard Robison and others by Jacob Zimmerman at the piano, we had Marc Caparone and his Back O’Town All-Stars, the band honoring Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars even though the sign said “Back O’Day.” They were Marc, Jacob, Charlie Halloran, Dan Walton, Jamey Cummins, Steve Pikal, and Josh, with vocals by Marc and Dawn. The set started explosively with MAHOGANY HALL STOMP and ended with STEAK FACE, and Eureka, California, will never be the same. But in a nice way. Or maybe a Nice 1948 way.

Next, Joel Paterson, Jonathan Doyle, Carl Sonny Leyland, Beau Sample, and Alex Hall got dangerously groovy with compositions by Illinois Jacquet, Freddie King, Bill Jennings, and others. A Chicago club circa 1955, right in front of us.

The Back O’Town All-Stars returned, but with the cosmic gift of Duke Robillard. They began with JUMPIN’ THE BLUES and the set only paused its jumping for a tenderly lyrical PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, sung as if shiny and new, by Dawn Lambeth.

Saturday began with Hal Smith’s Mortonia Seven, with Kris Tokarski, John Gill, Sam Rocha, Dave Kosmyna, T.J. Muller (on trombone), and Dave Bennett: a set notable for energized renditions of MILENBERG JOYS and PANAMA, but also BLUE BLOOD BLUES, MAMIE’S BLUES, and a positively vivid rendition of BALLIN’ THE JACK, sung and nearly-demonstrated by Dave, who told me he was playing a Conn Victor cornet once owned and played by our mutual hero Jim Dapogny. Jim was surely there, “no doubt,” in spirit.

The temperature rose for Charlie and the Tropicales — that’s Charlie Halloran and his musical voyages through the Caribbean, featuring Jonathan Doyle, Nate Ketner, Kris Tokarski, Twerk Thomson, Josh Collazo, and Jamey Cummins. There was calypso — Lord Melody’s FIFTY CENTS, sung nimbly by Charlie, as well as a few waltzes, a “belly-rubber,” and some all-out romps.

Next, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, with Brian Holland, Danny Coots, Marc Caparone, Jacob Zimmerman, and Steve Pikal, which started with Fats Waller’s MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’ went SOUTH for that song and PARDON MY SOUTHERN ACCENT, and ended with the Claude Hopkins’ affirmation, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU.

T.J. Muller switched to cornet for a King Oliver tribute — hotter than a forty-five! Even though he told us he had damaged his lip being over-ambitious on trombone, it was in o way audible. Young Louis was Dave Kosmyna, and the rest of the band was Hal Smith, Clint Baker, Ryan Calloway, Kris Tokarski, John Gill, Twerk Thomson, and their opening DIPPER MOUTH BLUES pushed us back in our seats with its expert hot velocity. I wasn’t around at the Lincoln Gardens in 1923, but this band made me feel that I was.

Then, Jonathan Doyle’s “four horn set,” with a front line of Jonathan, Zimmerman, Halloran, and Kosmyna, and the rhythm of Riley Baker, Tokarski, Cummins, and Collazo. I love Jonathan’s compositions — WHAT’S THE RUMPUS?, WHO’S THAT SCRITCHIN’, YOU CAN’T TAKE THOSE KISSES WITH YOU, but he also performed Moten’s HARMONY BLUES, Clarence Williams’ CUSHION FOOT STOMP, the Ellington-small-band GOOD GAL BLUES, and closed with SIX CATS AND A PRINCE. I had the leisure to admire his arrangements, the ways horns and rhythm gently slid over one another.

Sunday began with Twerk Thomson’s DORO WAT, which was streamlined and gutty at once, with Kris Tokarski, Halloran, Doyle, and Kosmyra — no set list, just a whimsical journey through BOUNCING AROUND, DREAMING THE HOURS AWAY, PONCHARTRAIN, and the whimsically-described CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME. This set — straight out of Marvel comics — also featured an exploding bass bridge (I mean the piece of wood itself) and festival angel Mark Jansen coming to the rescue in seconds with yet another string bass. And yes, I have it all on “film.”

Then, Hal Smith’s Jazzologists, a seriously NOLA band of John Gill, Katie Cavera, T.J. Muller (back on trombone), Clint Baker, Ryan Calloway, Kris Tokarski, offering MOOSE MARCH (a favorite of bassist Mike Fay), BLACK CAT ON THE FENCE, and MY LITTLE GIRL, in honor of Esther Muller, one month old.

In between, we went to the Eagle House (I became a civilian for an hour and left my camera in its nest) to hear Dave Stuckey’s Western Swing ecstasy, which finished with SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE — most riotously.

And (for us) the festival closed with a gentle set by Holland-Coots, with a highlight being Dawn’s sweet POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS and a solidly romping IF DREAMS COME TRUE.

Were there other glorious sets we missed? Did I take notes? Did I video everything here except the Western Swing yee-haw? Hell yes. Or “That’s for darn sure.”

Will you get to see the videos? As many of them as the musicians say YES to. And should you come to next year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival?

Do you even have to ask?

October 5-8, 2023.

P.S. I apologize to any musician whose name I misspelled above (I am sure I did): my excuse is that yesterday’s travel day began before 7 AM in California and ended after 1 AM in New York.

May your happiness increase!

EAGERLY, WITH EXTRA BATTERIES, WE HEAD TO EUREKA (September 29 – October 2, 2022)

On Wednesday afternoon, the OAO and I will board a plane to fly to Eureka, California, for the Redwood Coast Music Festival, which will swing out from Thursday afternoon, September 29, to Sunday evening, October 2. I’ve spent the last hour (this is being written Monday night) with a green highlighter, marking off the sets I would like to attend. This creates a problem. Look at the musical landscapes:

Thursday and Friday:

Saturday:

The problem is not with the green highlighter, I assure you.

The problem is with its owner, faced with one hundred sets of live music. Plenitude like this induces a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that’s nearly incurable.

If I take myself, camera, notebook, and tripod to X’s set, then I have to miss Y’s. (I am not naming names for obvious reasons.) You may say that this is a serious case of first-world-jazz-entitlement, but the swing struggle is real. There are a number of instances on this schedule where three groups I would like to see are performing at separate venues simultaneously.

I know that such lavishness is reason to embrace this festival as the music-cornucopia-for-the-ages, but I have yet to find a solution short of hiring several friends and training them as associate camera-people (and don’t think I haven’t tried).

Come to the Redwood Coast Music Festival! Bring iPhones and cameras! Help me with my Festival Disorder! (And have the time of your life at the same time.)

That is all I will say. Except that if I were able to make it to a mere fifteen or eighteen sets in four days (a faint hope) I still will go home full to bursting with splendid music.

May your happiness increase!

PEARLS: DON EWELL, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK CHACE, BILL PRIESTLEY (Spring 1959); DON EWELL, SOLO (December 20, 1941)

Frank Chace

A memorable bouquet of rare sounds, music I’ve loved for decades.

and Marty Grosz, young:

Selections 1-9 recorded at Bill Priestley’s house, Evanston, Illinois, by John Steiner, either March or June 21, 1959.

Don Ewell, piano; Frank Chace, clarinet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Bill Priestley*, cornet. I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'(with the verse) / SUNNY SIDE UP / SQUEEZE ME / JUST YOU, JUST ME / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA* / SINGIN’ THE BLUES (Chace out)* / I FOUND A NEW BABY (Ewell, Grosz, Chace, Priestley)*.

(I have no idea what the double-time knocking is in the later tracks: whether something is vibrating or someone is drumming on a surface near the microphone. I didn’t do it.)

Don Ewell, solo piano, December 20, 1941, Louisville, Kentucky: ROSETTA / CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? //

Original tape from the collection of Eugene Kramer.

Marty Grosz told me once that when he and Frank Chace were listening buddies as well as intuitive playing colleagues, they would listen to Pee Wee Russell’s solo on the Muggsy Spanier Commodore recording of SWEET SUE over and over, take a break and listen again. And that one of them said, “Doesn’t that just scrape the clouds?”

That is how I feel about this session. An earful of blossoms, with depth under the surface beauties. Each of these individualists bows respectfully to the great Ancestors, but the deep listener will hear four individual personalities come through: this isn’t a Russell-Waller-Beiderbecke-Lang hologram, and it would be an insult to hear only those glancing resemblances, instead of unique personalities coming together to fuse remarkable community.

Memorable, irreplaceable.

May your happiness increase!