Category Archives: Pay Attention!

ANDY SENIOR, POET

I’d say that more than most people, Andy Senior has many selves. JAZZ LIVES readers are likely to have encountered him as the creator and editor of THE SYNCOPATED TIMES; others know him from his internet music program devoted to the sounds of 1900-40, RADIOLA!. I feel fortunate to have met him and his wife Sue in person at a jazz weekend in Connecticut; he is a deep, articulate person, generous in his devotion to the music, with a side of wry darkness in his makeup.

But it was only recently that I encountered Andy the poet. I have a long history of reading poetry (studying and writing about Yeats, although that was long ago) and I admire the way it can deliver a variety of shocks to the system, startling as a Sidney Catlett rimshot or as reassuring as Ben Webster’s furry tone. I stumbled over one of Andy’s poems — terse, vinegary, with a kick at the end — on Facebook, a venue I don’t associate with original poetry of value.

Andy is completely himself as a poet: he does not write paeans to The Great Dead as did Philip Larkin, nor does he seek to be conspicuously “inspirational” in the usual ways.

Andy told me: It’s been my experience that when people see you doing one thing they think that’s the only thing you do. (Like eating tomato pie, for example.) My problem is that I’m a confirmed dilettante and I’ve done plenty of different things–some of which I have no intention of spotlighting. But I’m proud of what I’ve written and I’m happy to get it out there. 

Here’s the poem that first climbed into my lap, its snap as sharp as an energized rubber band:

The adjectives that come to mind are “shockingly delightful.” And while you are still reeling, here’s another:

His poems straddle stand-up comedy and philosophy, with darts of mockery aimed all around. A third:

At this point, a musical interlude might be both refreshing and needed. Preparing this post, I asked Andy for some music most dear to him, and he offered some favorites. Here’s one:

Where did Andy the poet come from? I asked him.

I’ve aspired to write ever since it became less of a chore–which is when I learned to type, starting about age 12. Owing to my natural clumsiness and mild dyslexia, when I tried to write in longhand I felt like I was dragging my trombone case to school. (And I demonstrably had the handwriting of an idiot, which didn’t encourage me.) Once I started typing I began to have fun playing with words and ideas. From childhood I loved MAD Magazine (and the verse and parodies by Frank Jacobs), progressing to humorists like Benchley and Thurber, the archy and mehitabel poems of Don Marquis, and the short, acerbic poems of Stephen Crane.

Andy calls his younger self “the Justin Bieber of the Smith-Corona.”

I wrote reams of stories, journals (in unreadable longhand), essays, songs, letters to the editor, and poems through my teens and twenties. I never thought about showing my poems to anyone until 1994, when I was asked to entertain with my songs at a local coffeehouse–called, appropriately enough, Slackers. Slackers had a poetry night and it proved to be an ideal venue for reading my work. 

Slackers closed (as coffeehouses do) and I crashed the poetry night at the Adirondack Coffee Company in Clinton (down the hill from Hamilton College). I made myself such a pest there–even siding with the local kids who got thrown out of the place–that the management rewarded me by making me emcee of their Wednesday poetry readings. During that time, the spring, summer, and fall of 1996, I wrote scores of poems–I had half a dozen new pieces to read every week. 

What was odd that I was a dumpy guy of 34, already starting to lose my hair and put on weight, reading sarcastic poetry–hardly a dreamboat–and women were paying attention to me. In fact, I met my wife Sue there. (Her son Joe was one of the kids who got kicked out by the management of the Adirondack Coffee Co. At present, he is associate editor and webmaster of The Syncopated Times.)

After the tsunami of verse I loosed in ’96 and ’97, I still dash off irregular lines occasionally (or should that be “occasional lines irregularly?”). Now that I am 60 (and more visibly a boat of the tug variety) I may be headed back to the Underwood for further reflections.

Andy, 2015

We welcome the poems. Here are more.

and an alternate version:

and just one more for good measure:

I hear an orchestra of voices emanating from Andy Senior, poet: some elusive, some satirical, some brightly world-weary. Know that what I’ve offered here is only the smallest of samples of his melodies and rhythms.

Incidentally, if you would like to see and hear Andy singing and playing his original songs, you have only to visit his YouTube channel, carpaltunnelkid.

When I read the first few poems I’d ever seen (on Facebook) I wrote to Andy, asking if he would like such a post as I’ve done here, and he was delighted. I even pressed on and said that I would buy a chapbook of his work should one exist or be made to exist. If his poetry twangs within you, let us know. For me, I salute his left-handed energies and applaud them.

May your happiness increase!

STILL MORE NEW YORK NOTES: KENNY DAVERN, JIMMY ANDREWS, MIKE BURGEVIN, PART TWO (Brew’s, July 11, 1974)

As promised, the third set.

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about the glorious music and friendship that I experienced for a few short months in 1974 at Brew’s, a place (pub? bar? restaurant?) that had divine small-group jazz under the gentle leadership of my friend, the late Mike Burgevin, a splendid drummer and occasional singer.

Mike encouraged me to record the music, and although Kenny Davern had to be persuaded that I was not the enemy, this night was one of the results: three sets by a trio of Kenny, soprano saxophone; Jimmy Andrews, piano; Mike, drums. I’d borrowed my friend Stu’s Tandberg reel-to-reel recorder, and with two Shure microphones, I recorded the whole evening in stereo (except for the first track, ON THE ALAMO). You can hear Kenny ask, early on, “Isn’t that too close?” or words to that effect, referring no doubt to where I had placed one of the microphones — near the bell of his soprano saxophone, I am sure. But he had no other objections, at least ones he voiced aloud.

Almost fifty years later, here’s the music.

DANNY BOY / WABASH BLUES / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / YOU’RE LUCKY TO ME / SEPTEMBER SONG:

I think you will hear the pleasure of the musicians — Kenny, free to go his own ways without other horns and with the benefit of a friendly empathic rhythm section — and the audience. And for me, the pleasure is doubled and tripled. I can’t go back to 1974, nor would I really want to, but the glowing soundtrack is here, undimmed.

And if you missed my previous posting, here’s the first part of the evening:

Something else needs to be said, and that is the absolute excellence of pianist Jimmy Andrews and drummer Mike Burgevin. Kenny Davern, bless him, received justified attention (call it a kind of jazz stardom) and opportunities to record: he remains unique. But Jimmy and Mike were never sought out by the record companies of the time; they weren’t well-known outside the tri-state area. They deserved better. And they remind us that good music isn’t always created by the people who will be written about in jazz histories, that we should celebrate the superb creators who don’t find international fame. Art and the machinery that publicizes it are two separate things, and only occasionally do they work in tandem.

May your happiness increase!

MORE NEW YORK NOTES: KENNY DAVERN, JIMMY ANDREWS, MIKE BURGEVIN, PART ONE (Brew’s, July 11, 1974)

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about the glorious music and friendship that I experienced for a few short months in 1974 at Brew’s, a place (pub? bar? restaurant?) that had divine small-group jazz under the gentle leadership of my friend, the late Mike Burgevin, a splendid drummer and occasional singer.

Mike encouraged me to record the music, and although Kenny Davern had to be persuaded that I was not the enemy, this night was one of the results: three sets by a trio of Kenny, soprano saxophone; Jimmy Andrews, piano; Mike, drums. I’d borrowed my friend Stu’s Tandberg reel-to-reel recorder, and with two Shure microphones, I recorded the whole evening in stereo (except for the first track, ON THE ALAMO). You can hear Kenny ask, early on, “Isn’t that too close?” or words to that effect, referring no doubt to where I had placed one of the microphones — near the bell of his soprano saxophone, I am sure. But he had no other objections, at least ones he voiced aloud.

Almost fifty years later, here’s the music.

Today, I offer the first two sets; tomorrow, the final one. ON THE ALAMO (one channel only) / OUR MONDAY DATE / SLOW BOAT TO CHINA / THE MOOCHE / OH, BABY! / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / ROSETTA / INDIAN SUMMER / AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

I think you will hear the pleasure of the musicians — Kenny, free to go his own ways without other horns and with the benefit of a friendly empathic rhythm section — and the audience. And for me, the pleasure is doubled and tripled. I can’t go back to 1974, nor would I really want to, but the glowing soundtrack is here, undimmed.

May your happiness increase!

LOVE-NOTES FROM MURRAY WALL, CONTINUED: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOE COHN (Cafe Bohemia, January 30, 2020)

Murray Wall, irreplaceable musician and man, moved to another neighborhood last month.

Here is my first posting in his honor. There will be more.

When dear and memorable people leave the planet, we don’t stop missing them in a few weeks, a few years, ever. Their absence is palpable, as was their singular presence. Murray was sweetly modest and utterly swinging; he created a beautiful foundation no matter what the context.

Here he is with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, reeds; Joe Cohn, guitar, on a Thursday night set (January 30, 2020) at Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, New York:

He sent love to us; I hope he knows that love was and is sent in return, in profusion.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC AND STORIES: JOE WILDER, MICHAEL WEISS, JOHN WEBBER, LEWIS NASH at the VILLAGE VANGUARD (July 19, 2006)

Anyone who knew Joe Wilder, even slightly, felt his loving presence: he was a sunbeam who happened to make lovely music with the same ease he made friends. I’d first spoken with him at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2004, and told him I had taken photographs of him at a local concert — Dick Hyman’s Perfect Jazz Repertory Quintet, which was then Joe, Dick, Phil Bodner, Milt Hinton, and Ronnie Bedford. An expert and tireless photographer, he was delighted to learn this and I offered to send him the photographs for his collection. He copied them and returned them, and sent them back with an elegant handwritten note.

I don’t think he had many opportunities in this century to lead his own group at a jazz club, although he was in demand at jazz parties. So when I learned that he would be leading a quartet at the Village Vanguard, I made a reservation, arrived early, and settled in. In 2006, I didn’t have a date, but I did have a small digital recorder, slightly longer than a pack of cigarettes, which I brought in, hoping to surreptitiously record the evening. As the band set up, I started the recorder, holding it under the table, hoping to be unobserved.

Alas, about thirty-five minutes in, one of the waitstaff spotted the glowing display, approached me, and said quietly, “You’ll have to leave if you don’t stop recording,” or words to that effect. I must have turned a deep red at being caught, but I was relieved he didn’t attempt to confiscate the recorder or make a fuss and have me removed. I did get to preserve three segments: the first, about thirty minutes uninterrupted; the second, one performance and some of Joe’s infamous puns; the third, a truncated LOVE FOR SALE where you can hear the malefactor being apprehended. Not incidentally, some years later I sent CD copies of this event to Joe and to his biographer, Ed Berger: they were thrilled. (Where were the jazz record labels when Joe had his week? A good question, with no answer.)

This year, I decided to share the music — but since I am a moral criminal, I reached out to pianist Michael Weiss (a Facebook friend who has also recorded gigs), then to string bassist John Webber, and Michael (another benefactor) got an OK from drummer Lewis Nash. So here you may hear.

This post is in honor of Joe and his friends, and for Solveig Wilder and her family.

Even though Joe didn’t play Tadd Dameron’s OUR DELIGHT, that title comes to mind:

Was this title oddly prescient in view of the third performance?

Caught . . .

I’m honored to have been there, and equally so that I can share some precious music with all of you.

John Webber said it best, “The world could use some more Joe Wilder!”

May your happiness increase!

JACK LOVED DANCE MUSIC (1933)

It looks like an old book. It is.
The book’s owner.

We believe that everything is knowable. After all, we have Google.

This post is about a ninety-year old artifact that pretends to offer up all its secrets. The oddly appropriate cliche is that it is “an open book,” but its secrets are hidden.

I can’t figure out whether the owner’s name is “Jack E. DuTemple” or “D. Temple,” and no online map turns up a Robert Street; rather, I get sent to Roberts. I never met Jack, but I have faith that he knew where he lived. The last entries in this book are dated Christmas 1933, so that is clear.

THIS JUST IN, thanks to Master Sleuth David Fletcher:

John E. “Jack” Detemple, 1908-1968. Because you knew I would… 🙂
Jack worked in a Binghamton shoe factory along with his dad. Thank God he was a music nut! He ended up in Sidney NY, a longtime Mason and a machinist for Bendix Corp. Several kids– no doubt one of them treasured Dad’s autograph book (and maybe his old records too).

Here is a tour of the music Jack heard in 1933.

Zez Confrey
Henry Biagini
Don Bestor
Rudy Vallee
Fred Waring
Whitey Kaufman
Ace Brigode
“Red” Nichols
Ramona
Paul Whiteman
Kay Kyser
Johnny Johnson
Jack Pettis
Pauline Wright
Bert Lown
Ernie Holst
Todd Rollins
Peggy Healy
Jack Fulton
Eddie Lane
Gene Kardos
Ray Noble
Abe Lyman
Joe Venuti
Dick Fidler (?)
Larry Funk
Happy Felton
Mal Hallett
Doc Peyton
Claude Hopkins
Art Kassel
Charley Davis
a closing cartoon, perhaps of Jack himself.

Ten miles north of the Pennsylvania border, Johnson City, New York is not a metropolis; 15,174 population in the 2010 census. But obviously dance bands came through towns of that size: in 1933, there were more ballrooms and “dance halls” for bands of all kinds. And Jack seems to have been a happily avid listener and perhaps dancer, enjoying both hot and sweet sounds, Black and White groups, famous and less so. The autograph book speaks to his enthusiasm, but also to the variety of live music available to audiences in the Depression. Yes, there was unemployment and breadlines, but there were also men and women making music all over the country, and creating it for actual audiences . . . not people staring into lit screens. I would say flippantly that we have more but they had better.

And “provenance.” I’ve had this book for about ten years. It was a gift from my dear friend and inspiration Mike Burgevin, who found it in an upstate New York antique shop, bought it, and saved it for me, knowing that some day I would share it on the blog. For this and so many other kindnesses I bless him.

My photographic captures are admittedly amateur, but, then again, JAZZ LIVES is not a high-level auction house.

So now you can see how the fabled Jack Pettis signed his name. Hardly a common sight. And perhaps some reader can tell us more about Dick Fidler (?) and Pauline Wright. Google has let me down, which returns me to my original thought: da capo al fine. But energetic readers of JAZZ LIVES now have many more sweet and hot rabbits to chase.

May your happiness increase!

THE CONCORD JAZZ ALL-STARS (Part One) at ANTIBES: MARSHAL ROYAL, SNOOKY YOUNG, ROSS TOMPKINS, HERB ELLIS, MICHAEL MOORE, JEFF HAMILTON, SCOTT HAMILTON, WARREN VACHE, RAY BROWN, JAKE HANNA (July 17, 1979)

The Concord Jazz record label released its first issue in 1973 at a time when new jazz record labels were blossoming (I think of Norman Granz’s Pablo and Hank O’Neal’s Chiaroscuro, among others). Concord had a particular sound and cross-generational approach: elders like Flip Phillips, Woody Herman, Nat Pierce, Harry Edison, Jimmie Rowles, Rosemary Clooney, Al Cohn, Buddy Tate, alongside newcomers Scott Hamilton and Warren Vache.

The “Concord Jazz All-Stars” also performed in concert, and we are fortunate that some of that material was preserved in video as well as audio form. Here’s the first quarter of an evening performance from July 17 at “Le Festival International du Jazz a Antibes Juan-Les-Pins 1979.”

Marshal Royal, alto saxophone; Snooky Young, trumpet; Ross Tompkins, piano; Michael Moore, string bass; Herb Ellis, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

MOTEN SWING / STARDUST (Marshal) / I WANT A LITTLE GIRL (Snooky) //

Add Scott Hamilton, tenor saxophone; Warren Vache, cornet. C JAM BLUES //

LOVE YOU MADLY Tompkins, Ray Brown, string bass; Jake Hanna, drums //

“Concord” means harmony, and that is true of this music. And there’s a Part Two to come.

Thanks to Scott Hamilton, yes, the Scott Hamilton, for his kind encouragement.

May your happiness increase!

THE SOUNDS THEY SWUNG LAST SUMMER: The EarRegulars at The Ear Out: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, JAY RATTMAN, TAL RONEN, JOSH DUNN (June 6, 2021)

A swing shrine en plein air.

A sweet and hot experience from a world in transition, in parole, as it were. Music beyond compare amidst strollers, chatters, and puppies on leash. Marvelous that it happened, and thrilling that it happened in a time and place that I and the OAO could visit. And we brought back souvenirs for you.

Here’s a rocking Louis performance that continues to inspire: ONCE IN A WHILE, with memories of Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, performed on June 6, 2021, at The Ear Out — 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York — by the EarRegulars, who were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass, and guest Josh Dunn, guitar (Josh takes the first solo, and in the Louis spirit, note Jay’s WEST END BLUES at the end of his solo (2:31)).

ONCE IN A WHILE, indeed, magic filled the air. Thanks to technology (a completely obsolete Panasonic HD video camera and very solicitous RODE microphone on a reliable tripod) it can be revisited at leisure.

May your happiness increase!

“IT WAS WILD AND LOOSE AND FREE”: THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET RETURNS TO NEW YORK (Part Two): THE JAZZ FORUM, July 17, 2022.

For the first performance of the evening and the full introduction, please see here.

Our business today is musical, not verbal: more from the wonderful Sunday gig at The Jazz Forum.

Monk’s FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH:

WHEN YOU GET IN OVER YOUR HEAD:

PARIS BLUES:

BABY STEPS:

PANNONICA:

This post is of course for the Micros themselves, creators of dense translucencies, stomping minuets, and for Mark and Ellen of the Jazz Forum, and loyal listeners Maurice and Amber. All hail! We hope for a Micros reunion in New York sooner than 2027.

And there are fifteen or so more video-performances to come from that night, so watch this space.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, MY HONEY”: GUILLERMO PERATA, RAMIRO PENOVI, FERNANDO MONTARDIT, DIEGO RODRIGUEZ . . . IN THE GROOVE

“Some folks say that swing won’t stay, that it’s dying out / I can prove it’s in the groove and they don’t know what they’re talking about”: loosely paraphrased lyrics from the 1940 song WHAM. But completely relevant here.

Listen to Guillermo Perata, cornet; Ramiro Penovi, electric guitar; Farnando Montardit, acoustic guitar; Diego Rodriguez, string bass, as they saunter through their arrangement of Irving Berlin’s ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND — a clever arrangement with lovely solos, so reminiscent of the wonderful quartet that George Barnes and Ruby Braff had for a short time in the Seventies:

And visit Guillermo Perata‘s YouTube channel for more lovely music. It’s in the groove. And since such things matter, I have had the privilege of meeting Guillermo and Fernando on a New York City trip: dear people as well as swinging players. Follow them (as they say) on Facebook, too.

May your happiness increase!

MELODIC “MAINSTREAM”: RANDY REINHART, BOB HAVENS, DAN LEVINSON, KEITH INGHAM, FRANK TATE, RICKY MALICHI (Allegheny Jazz Party, September 19, 2014)

“Mainstream,” not “trad,” “nor “Dixieland.” From the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party (September 19, 2014): two songs by Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums. It’s visually dark but the music blazes through. Lyrical, not hackneyed; Loesser and Carmichael, not Oliver or the ODJB. Abandon those categories and enjoy:

May your happiness increase!

MARTY GROSZ and FRIENDS HONOR FRANK TESCHEMACHER: DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, JAMES DAPOGNY, VINCE GIORDANO, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 29, 2006)

The clarinetist / saxophonist / arranger Frank Teschemacher, a brilliant individualistic voice in Chicago jazz of the late Twenties, didn’t live to see his twenty-sixth birthday. Everyone who played alongside him spoke of him with awe. Even though the recorded evidence of his idiosyncratic personality amounts to less than ninety minutes, he shines and blazes through any ensemble.

In celebration of what would have been Tesch’s centenary, Marty Grosz put together a tribute at the September 2006 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. It wasn’t a series of note-for-note copies of his recordings (this would have horrified the Austin High Gang) but a sincere hot effort to capture Tesch’s musical world — with great success. I was there with a moderately-concealed digital recorder, and couldn’t bear that this set would only be a memory, so what follows is my audio recording.

Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, commentary; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, Scott Robinson, reeds; James Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone; Pete Siers, drums. (The voice you’ll hear discoursing with Marty is that of the late Joe Boughton, creator of this and many other festivals.)

PRINCE OF WAILS (Dapogny transcription / arrangement) / BULL FROG BLUES (JD arr) / WAILING BLUES (JD arr) / I MUST HAVE THAT MAN (possibly Marty’s arrangement) / TRYING TO STOP MY CRYING (possibly Marty arrangement, his vocal, glee club) / SUGAR (possibly Marty arrangement, his vocal) / COPENHAGEN (with Marty’s Indiana etymology / story of Boyce Brown getting fired for talking about reincarnation). Thanks to Chris Smith for his assistance.

This post is in honor of Missy Kyzer, who was fascinated by Tesch and his world a long time ago. See her work here and here.

May your happiness increase!

“HOT REEDS”: BILL NAPIER, TOM BAKER, LARRY STEIN, TOM KEATS, JIM CUMMING (1983)

Jazz enthusiasts are as guilty of the Name-Brand-Enchantment as other product purchasers: the people at the supermarket who will only buy Heinz’ baked beans and not very different from the listeners who celebrate their particular Jazz Deity and would ignore splendid performances by people they haven’t yet heard. Think of Joshua Bell, unannounced, playing gorgeously in the Washington, D.C. subway, few people paying attention, and you get the idea.

Here is an ad hoc group of California jazz stars — although some of them never made a record under their own name — playing wonderfully. Tom Baker is a beloved figure, but I suspect many listeners might look at the heading of this post and think, as did Philip Larkin, “If I haven’t heard of them, how good could they be?” and turn away, which would be a pity, because the music is delicious.

Bill Napier, clarinet

This hot effusion — a live gig — comes from the collection of superb bassist and spiritual leader Mike Fay. The collective personnel is Bill Napier, clarinet; Larry Stein, soprano saxophone; Tom Baker, tenor saxophone; Tom Keats, rhythm guitar; unidentified, solo guitar; possibly Jim Cumming, string bass. Robin Hodes, trumpet, and Bob Mielke, trombone, are noted in the personnel but aren’t heard on the first tracks. The CD is labeled HOT REEDS 1983. Here are the first five performances, and they rock and saunter in the best ways.

OH, MISS HANNAH!:

LITTLE GIRL:

CREOLE LOVE CALL:

SWINGIN’ THE BLUES (with a nod to TWISTED):

and THEM THERE EYES:

My guess is that most of the names in this band might be new to many listeners, especially to those less familiar to the California jazz scene of decades past. (How odd to write “decades past” of 1983: some readers will understand this feeling.)

You might never have heard of them, but I hope you are glad that you heard their music. And there are another five or perhaps six performances from this energetic and friendly date to come.

May your happiness increase!

“IT WAS WILD AND LOOSE AND FREE”: THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET RETURNS TO NEW YORK (Part One): THE JAZZ FORUM, July 17, 2022.

Halley’s Comet comes back every ninety years. By those standards, The Microscopic Septet is a frequent visitor to New York: 2017, then now. But five years is a long time by earthly standards, so the return of the Micros is a jubilant thing.

News flash: the Micros will be playing their other New York gig at Smalls, Christopher Street, Thursday, July 21. Be there if you can or become a member for free, or better, make a donation here and watch the live-stream.

Michael Hashim, Dave Sewelson
Co-leaders, composers, arrangers Joel Forrester, Phillip Johnston

I know it’s odd to start with still photographs, since the Micros are such a mobile group, but they are terribly photogenic, so I couldn’t resist. One more:

Phillip, Don Davis, Dave Hofstra, Michael

And now to more words. The Microscopic Septet wowed us in two sets at Tarrytown’s hidden jazz oasis, the Jazz Forum (a wonderful place!) on Sunday night, July 17, 2022. They are Joel Forrester, pianist, composer, arranger, co-leader; Phillip Johnston, soprano saxophone, composer, arranger, co-leader; Richard Dworkin, drums; Dave Hofstra, string bass; Dave Sewelson, baritone saxophone, vocal on I’VE GOT A RIGHT TO CRY; Michael Hashim, tenor saxophone; Don Davis, alto saxophone.

And if you are new to the Micros — who have been visible and audible for thirty-and-more years — they are more expansive than my words could convey. They have energies in profusion, and they rock. Their rhythm never falters, and you’ll hear elements of the last hundred years of jazz mixed in a savory stew, always surprising: reed-section unisons and backgrounds, riffs and stop-times, passionate soloing that owes much to early rhythm and blues on one end, free jazz on the other. Strong melodic lines and lots of drama, leavened with humor, futuristic and earthy all at once.

Here’s the first performance of the first set, Joel’s MANHATTAN MOONRISE:

Oh yes, there will be more! But get yourself to Smalls on Thursday night, two sets.

May your happiness increase!

WE’LL MISS MURRAY WALL (1945-2022)

“Live your life so that when you are gone you are missed for a long time,” someone once said, and the wonderful string bassist and enlivening human being Murray Wall, who left us a day ago, is a sterling example. I refuse to use the past tense: as long as we can hear Murray, he IS.

A characteristic facial expression.

I didn’t play in a rhythm section with Murray, and I only knew him for slightly more than a dozen years. Others have better stories. We spoke occasionally when I showed up at a gig with a camera, and he was kind and friendly always. (Only once, when he performed his comic vocal variations on IT HAD TO BE YOU, did he ask me to keep the video private. And I honor this.)

But I got a sense of his looking-at-the-world stance: more than a little amused but keeping the punchline to himself for the most part. Even when his head wasn’t cocked slightly to one side or an eyebrow raised, it was easy to imagine their presence.

In another culture, he would have been the Sage-Storyteller-Jester-Advisor, and I feel that he was all those things, although he sent his axioms and giggles to us through gut strings on an acoustic bass rather than sermons or pronouncements.

His gentle slyness came through in every note: he didn’t take himself seriously, but he held melody and swing sacred. He loved the music — that’s not a cliche here — and love came from him to us.

HIs ensemble playing was “rock-solid” in the best way; he was someone you could lean on and never fear that the band would fall down. That giant woody sound, never too loud: a plush pillow with clearly defined edges. His tone. His note choices. His speaking way of constructing phrases. His solos were not ego-driven: no twanging notes to start off, to say LOOK AT ME, no scampering up and down the fretboard. Melodies new, rhythms strong, sometimes surprising harmonies, all sending joy.

Listen.

and this:

and this:

and Murray’s chosen feature:

I wanted to close with a blues, because I feel grief writing this post. But this is what I came up with: Lester Young’s POUND CAKE, which is whimsical and slightly at a tilt: joy to cut through the sorrow even though the sorrow remains like a stain.

Thank you, Murray. You bless us. I forego my usual closing in his honor, even though Murray always increased our happiness.

LARRY McKENNA INVITES US TO DREAM (SILAS IRVINE, JOE PLOWMAN, DAN MONAGHAN: Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, May 22, 2022)

What follows is the center, the heart, you might say, of the LARRY McKENNA WITH STRINGS project, one that is making progress towards completion. So when you hear the quiet interludes in this performance, you may imagine them filled with strings, English horn, harp, and more — arrangements by Larry and Jack Saint Clair.

But when I was sitting in the studio at Rowan University on May 22, 2022, marveling, I didn’t feel the need to imagine anything. Larry; Silas Irvine, piano; Joe Plowman, string bass; Dan Monaghan, drums, invited me to make myself comfortable in a dream in sound, and I am so grateful.

I am not an insistent person, but I insisted that I be allowed to share this interlude, this dream-vision in sound and textures, so that my readers could come along as well.

DREAMSVILLE, incidentally, is by Henry Mancini, and first appeared as part of the music for the television series PETER GUNN. But there’s nothing noir about the quartet’s interpretation:

Isn’t that lovely?

I can’t wait for the project to reach fruition.

May your happiness increase!

IT’S ALLRED WITH US: The EarRegulars featuring BILL and JOHN ALLRED, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, PAT O’LEARY at The Ear Out, with an unscheduled cameo appearance by THE SIREN (October 17, 2021)

The summer of 2021 was memorable in many ways for jazz lovers in New York City. A resurrection of sorts, if you will. And one of the most endearing manifestations of that coming-alive impulse was the space outside of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York, on Sunday afternoons, where The EarRegulars made us all feel joyous and free, once again. (They are back to their regular Sunday-night revival meetings, from about 8 to about 11 PM: superb community and surprises galore.)

October 17, 2021, was one of those surprises, when Bill and John Allred, father and son trombonists, got together to add to The EarRegulars, who were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, heroic warrior [to be explained below] and string bass. What Bill and John do together is part practice, part telepathy, and wholly gratifying. And The EarRegulars are always living examples of thoughtful swing, in solo and ensemble.

Here’s Irving Berlin’s ALWAYS:

and the affirmation of romantic commitment:

and — under the heading IF YOU CAN MAKE IT HERE, YOU’LL MAKE IT ANYWHERE, the heroic battle of Pat O’Leary versus The Siren:

We had a wonderful time, out there in the fresh air and bright sunshine. Memorable hours among friends and the best sounds. And it still is happening Sunday nights, so come visit.

May your happiness increase!

FEAST YOUR EYES: THE REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL IS COMING (EVEN SOONER): SEPTEMBER 29 – OCTOBER 2, 2022.

Talk about musically-induced vertigo.

Attentive readers will already have seen (and heard) my recent post on the Redwood Coast Music Festival, which can be visited here. (There’s a substantial helping of music from the 2019 RCMF.)

Now, the musicians have agreed that the tentative schedule for the festival is fine with them, so I can share it with you here. Make sure you have a cool drink (or a hot one, depending on where you are), a way of taking notes, and perhaps your phone within reach in case you feel faint. The schedule has that effect on me, so I am not fantasizing at all.

Thursday and Friday:

Saturday:

and Sunday:

And, a little music to help you take the next step, which involves tickets to the festival, lodging, and transportation. Those you have to do on your own, but they are do-able for certain.

ESQUIRE BOUNCE, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:

and DON’T BE THAT WAY, by a different version of the Swingtet:

I’m eager to go, and I hope you are as well. And the race IS indeed to the swift: when I called the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka, California, some rooms were already booked. Carpe the swing diem, dear readers.

May your happiness increase!

I’LL HEAR THIS IN MY DREAMS: DAN BARRETT, JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, BOB REITMEIER, ALEX HOFFMAN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 20, 2012)

Where it happened!

I think of this as the Jazz at Chautauqua Thursday Night All-Star Jam Band, and after you hear and see them for nine minutes I predict you will understand why.

Thursday night sessions, before the jazz weekend began, were loose swinging affairs in the Athenaeum Hotel parlor, where we sat at the same level as the musicians (rather than below them in a large ballroom) and all kinds of good things happened, as they did on September 20, 2012.

Here are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums, romping on I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, which begins in the most sweetly exalted 1936 Teddy Wilson style. Imperishable. I can’t watch it only once. And to list all the delights would take away your pleasure in finding them, so get ready to compile your own list of astonishments:

That kind of performance — expertise, wit, enthusiasm, joy — happens often when musicians of this caliber gather and the cosmic vibrations are right, but to me this is a perfectly memorable interlude, one I treasure.

Thanks to the musicians and to the late Joe Boughton, the emperor of rare songs, swing, and good feeling.

May your happiness increase!

HOT POEMS and SECULAR HOSANNAS: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS SWING INTO SAN FRANCISCO (MARC CAPARONE, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON: Bird and Beckett Books, July 5, 2022)

“More than just books”: Eric Whittington’s Bird & Beckett Books (652 Chenery Street, San Francisco, California) is a delightful sanctuary for art, for poetry, for music. And certainly jazz.

July 5, 2022 was an exciting and rare appearance by four of the finest under the banner of RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS: Ray Skjelbred, piano, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

They play and sing:

BLUE AIR BLUES (Ray’s selection of a strain from Sidney Bechet’s BLUES IN THE AIR) / Fats Waller’s THAT RHYTHM MAN / Hines’ ROSETTA, vocal by Ray / SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, homage to Joe Sullivan and Bing / ONE SWEET LETTER FROM YOU for Lionel and friends / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART for the Chicagoans / MEMORIES OF YOU for everyone who has memories of Eubie, Louis, Benny, and more / Ray commends the band / OH, BABY! also for the Chicagoans / an intermission / James P. Johnson’s OLD-FASHIONED LOVE / SPECIAL DELIVERY BLUES for Barbara Dane / WHO’S SORRY NOW? for the Blue Note Jazzmen and others / WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD for Bing and Berlin and my friends too / I NEVER KNEW for Benny Carter, Pres, and Berkeley Rhythm / PEG O’MY HEART for Miff Mole / Bubber Miley’s IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING) and closing with James P.’s A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID //

Music that’s at once subversive and very direct, with bold statements and tender little explosions. If you can hear the lovely densities, you are tuned to the correct astral channel; if you can’t at first, listen again. And those who are uplifted, as I am, might consider sending a few cyber-lettuce leaves to the sites listed above. Pussycats need food and water; musicians and venues, also.

May your happiness increase!

“PLAY THAT FAMOUS RUSSIAN FOLK SONG, LYRICS BY A UKRANIAN POET AND MUSIC BY A GERMAN COMPOSER, PLEASE”: BOB BARNARD, DUKE HEITGER, BOB HAVENS, BOBBY GORDON, KEITH INGHAM, FRANK TATE, ARNIE KINSELLA (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 15, 2007)

Where it happened! Hotel Athenaeum, Chautauqua, New York.

That’s right. DARK EYES, published in 1843, has lyrics by the Ukrainian poet Yevhen Hrebinka, music by the German composer Florian Hermann. And here it is, served hot.

All of this splendid improvisation on the theme took place before 10 AM on a Saturday morning at Jazz at Chautauqua (September 15, 2007), a fact worth noting, since many jazz musicians are nocturnal beings. We have Bob Barnard, cornet (open) / leader; Duke Heitger, trumpet (muted); Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums. Everyone sounds splendid but I award the Palm to Bob . . . who just soars, as was his habit:

Jazz at Chautauqua (then the Allegheny Jazz Party and the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party) came only once a year, but I attended faithfully for fourteen years and am still living in the afterglow. My decade plus-one (2006-17) of performance audios and videos is a precious archive to me, and it is (as always) a joy to share it with you. There are more treasures unseen and unheard, so watch this space.

May your happiness increase!

BRIEFLY BUT MEMORABLY, THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET RETURNS TO NEW YORK (July 17, The Jazz Forum, Tarrytown, New York // July 21, Smalls, Greenwich Village, New York)

The Microscopic Septet is one of the most imaginative jazz groups it’s ever been my privilege to encounter. The last time that happened five years ago, since co-leaders Joel Forrester and Phillip Johnston live far apart, but they are reuniting in New York for four sets, two nights, in July 2022.

The Septet is Joel Forrester, piano, compositions, arrangements; Michael Hashim, tenor saxophone; Don Davis, alto saxophone; Phillip Johnston, soprano saxophone, compositions, arrangements Dave Sewelson, baritone saxophone; Dave Hofstra, string bass; Richard Dworkin, drums. If I tried to describe what they did, it would be inaccurate because narrow: let’s just say they lovingly take the past and send it Priority Mail into the future, with surprises thrown in free of charge.

Here’s a taste of what they did (and I captured) in 2017.

WHEN YOU GET IN OVER YOUR HEAD (you’ll forget the noisy audience immediately):

Phillip’s LET’S COOLERATE ONE:

HANG IT ON A LINE:

And here’s Phillip’s commentary on the return / reunion:


 Active for a dozen years, the Microscopic Septet were widely recognized as “New York’s Most Famous Unknown Band.” The group started with a basic reeds-and-rhythm texture (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax, piano, bass and drums) that was sonically similar to the sound of the Swing Era. However, they employed these textures to address a widely eclectic range of styles, from free-form music to R&B, rhumbas and ragtime. The result was a brilliant blend of fresh-sounding orchestration and inspired soloing. Beloved in New York, where they generally drew capacity crowds, “The Micros” were one of the most celebrated of the many cutting-edge units associated with experimental music’s best-known venue, the Knitting Factory, during the peak years of the “Downtown” music movement in the mid 1980s onward. Beginning in 2006, the Micros came back together again, sparked by a re-release of their 1980s LPs on a series of CDs on Cuneiform, eventually releasing a series of highly regarded CD, also on Cuneiform, featuring both new and earlier, unrecorded Micros music. Beginning with Lobster Leaps In and followed by Friday The 13th: The Micros Play Monk, Manhattan Moonrise and Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues, the Micros began playing once or twice a year in New York, despite the fact that the two band-leaders, Phillip Johnston lives in Sydney, Australia, and Joel Forrester in Lyons, France, until the pandemic made travel impossible.  . . . until now.

In July 2022, for the first time since the 2017 concert ‘Forever Weird’ at The Kitchen (with generational fellow travelers Jazz Passengers & Kamikaze Ground Crew), the Micros are gathering in New York to play two gigs, at Jazz Forum and Smalls Jazz Club.

“The Micros skip merrily through the century, finding an avant-garde side street branching off from a trad-jazz Main Street…. As always with the Micros, it’s gloriously, delightfully and inappropriately right. Welcome back.” – DOWN BEAT

And the gig details. Sunday, July 17, 2022, The Jazz Forum, Tarrytown, New York, two shows, 4 and 6 PM. Tickets: https://jazzforumarts.org/.

Thursday, July 21, 2022, Smalls Jazz Club, New York, New York, two shows, 7:30 and 9 PM. Tickets: https://www.smallslive.com/events/24212-microscopic-septet/

Don’t miss them. Who knows what the future brings, for them or us?

May your happiness increase!