Category Archives: SURPRISE!

“I LIKE IT, I LIKE IT”: A NEW CD BY JOHN ROYEN’S NEW ORLEANS RHYTHM: KIM CUSACK, STEVE PIKAL, JOSHUA GOUZY, HAL SMITH (2020)

If the names above are familiar to you — John Royen, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Joshua Gouzy or Steve PIkal, string bass; Hal Smith, drums — then my copying Louis’ delighted exhortation will make perfect sense. To go a little deeper, here is a new CD, titled GREEN SWAMP, a Darnell Howard original. It contains seventeen performances and was beautifully recorded by New Orleans’ own Tim Stambaugh.

But perhaps four minutes of music would be a joy-spreading interlude at this point — a Don Ewell original, SOUTH SIDE STRUT, with Steve on string bass. (Don, as you might know, was John’s mentor: no one better.)

I have a familiar pride in this issue, because I wrote the notes:

In a society in love with newness, to call something “old-fashioned” may seem an insult.  Doesn’t everyone want the latest thing?  But to me that expression is another name for timeless beauty and virtue, creations that will last.  This CD is terribly “old-fashioned” and I am damned glad of it.

This music is melodic, swinging, affectionate.  It romps.  It grins.  The sounds embrace the listener; what comes out of the speaker sounds good, and that is no small thing (in Condon-terms, it is honey rather than broken glass to the ear).  Without gimmicks or jokes, the band says, “Come along with us.  We promise you a good time.”  Most of the tunes (“tunes” is another old-fashioned word, one I’d hate to lose) are medium-tempo, a little faster or slower: good for spur-of-the-moment-shoeless dancing in the kitchen.      

Captain John Royen doesn’t have that honorific only because he pilots a boat; his playing is wonderfully decisive: you know where you are at all times, and the trip is both elegant and exciting, as he steers by the lights of Ewell and Morton.  The Captain is also that reassuring evolutionary accomplishment: a two-handed orchestral pianist.  He doesn’t pound or race: you can set your clock by him.  His colleagues Pikal and Gouzy are just as reliable: they offer a limber rhythmic platform, flexible and stimulating.  Hal Smith is a master of swing and sonic variety: every note both propels and rings as he plays “for the comfort of the band.”  Finally, there’s the unequalled Kim Cusack, whose tone is lemonade in July, who creates memorable variations with lightness and fervor.  The repertoire is honorable melodies that are both venerable and fresh.  By the way, this is a band, not simply four soloists in the same room: listeners with even mildly functioning imaginations will sense these musicians smiling approval through every track.

I used to write long liner notes, supplying biography (Google made that redundant) and song origins (ditto), explaining musical nuances.  My new goal is to write notes that can be read in less than three minutes and twenty seconds, the time it took to play a 78 rpm record.  If more explanation is necessary, one of us has failed.  Not the band, I assure you.  Now, get to listening!  Joy awaits.

The other performances on the disc are I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / SQUEEZE ME / BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME / HONEY HUSH / I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU / SWEET SUBSTITUTE / HERE COMES THE BAND / OLD FASHIONED LOVE / PRETTY BABY / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / MONDAY DATE / BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA / BUSH STREET SCRAMBLE / DELMAR DRAG / GREEN SWAMP.

You can purchase the CD from either Hal or John at their websites — www.neworleansjazzpiano.com or www.halsmithmusic.com — for $20 postpaid. It’s quite wonderful. You heard it here first.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part Two): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

The very place: Swing 46, 349 West 46th Street, New York City, where good music is fresh, hot, and sweet.
Dan, Pat, and Gabrielle: photo by Jon De Lucia.
Michael Kanan, photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle, photo by Jon De Lucia.

On July 13, which was an ordinary Tuesday, late afternoon, Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass, created wonderful music for all to savor. And savor we did. In my first posting from that evening, they mingled Lester Young, George and Ira, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler . . . gorgeously here. But I said there was more to come, and I wouldn’t want to deceive anyone.

Here are three more: two Ellingtons, one Lerner and Loewe.

ALL TOO SOON (with Ben Webster at the bar, feeling it):

DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:

ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE:

Yes, more to come (a cosmological quartet, to pique your curiosities).

And a few words about Swing 46 — it was a pleasure to be there in a congenial atmosphere — a large food-and-drink menu and a very welcoming staff. Next Tuesday, Dan will be back with the delightful Hilary Gardner (swinging, surprising, and introspective) and other luminaries to be announced, from 5:30 to 8:30. And at 9, the irreplaceable Michael Hashim leads noble friends — who have included Chris Flory and Kevin Dorn — in an impromptu session. That’s 349 West 46th Street, the north side, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. Leave your bedroom: put down the phone: Netflix will be here when you come back: what’s in the freezer is safe. Hear some restorative live music among like-minded friends.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part One): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

Four of my musical heroes made wonderful sounds the other night at Swing 46 (that’s 349 West 46th Street, New York City): Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

Dan Block, Pat O’Leary, Gabrielle Stravelli. Photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle Stravelli. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

Four heroes, five wonderful performances. It was a Tuesday night; the gig went from 5:30 to 8:30 — hardly the day and time one would expect aesthetic firework displays, but they certainly happened.

Michael Kanan. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

TICKLE-TOE — an instrumental tribute to and embodiment of Lester Young, so happily. Savor the first ballad chorus!:

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME — could anything be more tender?:

Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler give us friendly rules for living and romance, AS LONG AS I LIVE:

Even though it was becoming dark, here’s a frolicsome DAY IN, DAY OUT:

A sweetly pensive Kurt Weill medley scored for the trio — LOST IN THE STARS / HERE I’LL STAY:

And a few words about Swing 46 — it was a pleasure to be there in a congenial atmosphere — a large food-and-drink menu and a very welcoming staff. Next Tuesday, Dan will be back with the delightful Hilary Gardner (swinging, surprising, and introspective) and other luminaries to be announced, from 5:30 to 8:30. And at 9, the irreplaceable Michael Hashim leads noble friends — who have included Chris Flory and Kevin Dorn — in an impromptu session. That’s 349 West 46th Street, the north side, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. Leave your bedroom: put down the phone: Netflix will be here when you come back: what’s in the freezer is safe. Hear some restorative live music among like-minded friends.

May your happiness increase!

BRIAN KELLOCK’S “MARTY PARTY,” EDINBURGH JAZZ and BLUES FESTIVAL, JULY 21, 2021: LIVE AND ONLINE.

I confess that a few days ago the Scottish pianist Brian Kellock was not known to me. Yet in under an hour of listening, I’ve become a fan, an advocate, an enthusiast. Some evidence for this burst of feeling: here’s Brian playing Richard Rodgers’ WAIT ‘TIL YOU SEE HER on his 2019 solo CD, BIDIN’ MY TIME:

What I hear first is a kind of clarity: Brian is a sensitive player but someone who’s definite, deeply into The Song and committed to letting its glories be heard. But he is not simply a curator of melody, someone handing the linen-wrapped relic to us to adore. He has imagination and scope; he takes chances. He has a beautiful touch, with technique and power in reserve. And did I say that he swings? Consider this:

Obviously someone to admire, who’s listened but doesn’t copy, who goes his own delightful ways. He’s deep into the only worthwhile activity: absorbing all the influences and stirring them together to come up with himself.

But wait! There’s more . . . let me tell you some things you haven’t heard yet.

Scottish jazz star Brian Kellock has put together a brand-new line-up to celebrate the music and spirit of one of the living legends of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival: the American rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and raconteur Marty Grosz, who recently turned 91.

Brian Kellock (piano), Ross Milligan (guitar) & Roy Percy (bass) are all fans who relished every opportunity to catch Marty when he visited the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in the 1990s and 2000s.

Indeed, 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of Marty’s very first visit to Edinburgh. And who did he play with during that first visit? A young Brian Kellock.

The joy of a Marty Grosz gig is that it is fun. Jazz shouldn’t – in his view – be po-faced or serious. It should be entertaining – just as it was when he was growing up and his favourite musicians included Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, all of whom knew how to put on a show.

His selection of tunes has always been highly distinctive and original: whereas other musicians pull the same old numbers out of the bag wherever they play, Marty – also known as a member of 1970s supergroup Soprano Summit – built an international solo career on the tunes that jazz had forgotten. And then he put his own imaginative twist on them. If he had a small group, he would dream up a memorable arrangement, often on the spot, and if he was playing solo, there would be so much colour in his playing that you’d forget you were only listening to one guy.

At the Marty Party, Brian will – as Marty often has – play 20 minutes as a soloist before Ross and Roy join him onstage. This will be an affectionate and fun homage to a longstanding Edinburgh Jazz Festival favourite; a musician who, although he no longer travels to Scotland, continues to delight aficionados (and the rest of their households) with his generous back catalogue of recordings, by a range of bands with such witty names as the Orphan Newsboys, the Paswonky Serenaders, Marty Grosz and His Swinging Fools, and Marty Grosz and His Hot Puppies.

Brian Kellock says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be playing music associated with Marty Grosz at my first ‘live’ gig since before the pandemic. Marty’s records have boosted my spirits many times over the last 18 months, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the joy of playing jazz in front of an audience again. I’m delighted to be introducing a new line-up, with Roy and Ross, and hoping that this core combo will be joined by a horn player or two for future Marty-inspired gigs.”

Brian Kellock’s Marty Party, Assembly Roxy, Wednesday July 21 at 2pm – live and online. Tickets from edinburghjazzfestival.com

As a former college professor of mine used to say, most endearingly, “I commend this to you.”

May your happiness increase!

CELEBRATING GEORGE BARNES at 100: The GEORGE BARNES – RUBY BRAFF Quartet (MICHAEL MOORE, WAYNE WRIGHT) at the Grande Parade du Jazz, July 21, 1974

Let me start with a few numbers: George Barnes was born one hundred years ago (as of July 17, 1921) and this session was performed and recorded a few days shy of forty-seven years ago. I first heard George on recordings with the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band and with Louis Armstrong (the MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY set) and what caught my ear was a kind of daring playfulness.

He was identifiable from the first note, his sound and attack so very distinctive, and his phrases didn’t follow predictable logic, although he lived for strong statements of the melody ornamented with pistol-shot single notes. Yet his unerring rhythmic sense made it natural for him to move fluidly around the beat, on it, ahead, or behind, and his solos were fulfilling compositions on their own. In addition, he was a peerless ensemble player — making the most formulaic musical entree well-seasoned and spicy — clearly delighting in what he could and did add.

He sounded both like a wizard of drama and a puckish stand-up comic, an adventurous soul, startling and joyous. Or maybe he was Douglas Fairbanks Jr., afraid of nothing and always landing beautifully, swing sword drawn. In this, I think his peers are not simply guitarists (although guitarists speak of him with reverence) but the greatest players of his century, people like Lester Young, Sidney Catlett, and Count Basie.

When I was old enough to venture out of my room and to hear music in ways that didn’t require me to stare at the speaker grille, I was fortunate to hear George in New York City between 1973-75, as a guiding genius of the quartet also featuring Ruby Braff. I had worshipped at the Braff shrine for a few years before, but, listening to the tapes and recordings of the quartet, I am sorry that George’s name didn’t come first — as I have it here. Cornet trumps guitar in these recordings, but sometimes in volume, not in inventiveness. The group didn’t last long, but when they were all traveling the same road, their music was completely memorable, disciplined yet soaring.

Here is a fifty-minute concert by the quartet at the Nice Jazz Festival / the Grande Parade du Jazz — ten marvels all in a row. Lyricism, sharp turns, hilarity, and pleasure, and the only problem is that the average listener might aurally gobble down the whole program at a sitting — ingesting too quickly to be properly astonished. Heard at one’s leisure, these performances glisten, and following what George is doing is always a revelation.

George Barnes, electric guitar; Ruby Braff, cornet; Michael Moore, string bass; Wayne Wright, rhythm guitar. Grande Parade du Jazz, Nice, France, July 21, 1974. NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU / ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET / THE MAN I LOVE / IT’S WONDERFUL / SOMEBODY LOVES ME / IT DON’T MEAN A THING (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) / SOLITUDE / I GOT RHYTHM / MEAN TO ME / OH, THAT KISS //

I never spoke to Mister Barnes when I saw the Quartet, even though I was sometimes very close to the band — I was timid, which I am sorry was the case, but now I wish him a most joyous centennial and thank him for the hours of inventiveness he gave us so freely. The good news is that his legacy is so beautifully maintained under the title of the George Barnes Legacy Collection: “recorded music (including repackaged releases of select albums and singles), compositions & arrangements, teaching methods, photographs, documents, and video & film footage, curated with care by his daughter Alexandra and his late wife Evelyn.” Visit the site here; be entranced and enlightened by the genius that is George Barnes.

May your happiness increase!

CLARINETS, ANYONE? BARNEY BIGARD, KENNY DAVERN, BOB WILBER, EDDIE DANIELS, TONY COE, DICK HYMAN, JACK SEWING, J.C. HEARD (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 15, 1977)

Kenny Davern

Where were you on July 15, 1977? I don’t remember, and I think I’m not alone. I hope that many of my readers were fortunate enough to be at the Grande Parade du Jazz, watching yet another clarinet spectacular featuring Barney, Kenny, Bob, Eddie, and Tony, supported by Dick Hyman, piano; Jack Sewing, string bass; J.C. Heard, drums. Now you can be there, for BYE BYE BLUES / MOONGLOW / TAKE THE “A” TRAIN — classic repertoire enabling all the players to display their most vivid individualities:

How marvelous that such a thing happened, and that it was captured so that we can savor it, nearly half a century later.

May your happiness increase!

HEARD ON THE STREET: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, JAY RATTMAN, RICKY ALEXANDER (The EarRegulars at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021)

Jay, Ricky, Matt.
Jon-Erik.
The very Place. (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.)

CLEMENTINE (from New Orleans):

LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER (either Hudson or Greenwich, depending on your direction):

I’ve already posted MY BUDDY, but I think it’s sublime:

and just in case you missed it, here is I WANT TO BE HAPPY, with Danny Tobias joining in:

These wonderful explosions and expressions — with a rotating stock company of swinging friends — are happening every Sunday afternoon, 1 to 3:30. What gifts we are being given!

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Part Three), or MARTY PLAYS FATS, AGAIN: MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO, DANNY TOBIAS, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM LAWLOR, JIM GICKING (Awbury Arboretum, June 23, 2021)

Here’s the music I’ve already posted from this fine funny festive evening:

Perhaps after ST. LOUIS BLUES, I GOT RHYTHM, and STARDUST, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE is the most famous song (or famous set of chord changes) in jazz. Tom Lord’s online jazz discography lists 1561 recorded versions beginning in 1929. This one won’t be listed there, but we can enjoy it anyway.

There’s more to come from this summery evening where friends gathered to celebrate Marty, singing and playing, of course with Dispatch and Vigor at his side.

May your happiness increase!

“THERE’S SOME KIND OF MAGIC GOING ON”: “COLLEGIATE,” by THE ORIGINAL CORNELL SYNCOPATORS (Rivermont Records, 2021)

Words later. First, this magical video:

I’ve admired Colin Hancock since 2017, when I heard the first disc by the Original Cornell Syncopators — a group of wonderfully gifted college students who were majoring in everything except music — who romped through Twenties tunes with enthusiasm, vigor, and feeling. They are my living answer to “Jazz is dead.” “Young people only want to play Charlie Parker solos.” “No one under seventy really knows how to play Hot,” and other widely-circulated falsehoods.

I knew that Colin and “the Syncs,” as those in the know, call them, had recorded a new CD for Rivermont Records, its repertoire focused on music composed, played, recorded by Twenties ensembles with connections to college life. From what I know of Colin and a number of his colleagues, I expected that the results would be well-researched and historically accurate, and that I would hear music new to me, played idiomatically. I knew that the results would also be fun, spirited, enthusiastic: playful rather than white-gloves dry reverence. I knew the band would be mostly Youngbloods (with the exception of guest pianist Ed Clute and banjo-guitar master Robbert VanRenesse) that they would be ethnically diverse, with women as well as men sharing the limelight as instrumentalists as well as singers.

Yesterday I had errands to do, so I brought the disc with me to play in my car — my mobile studio — and I was astonished by how compelling it was, how fine — well beyond my already high expectations. I know it’s an oxymoron, but the words “ferocious polish” kept coming to my mind as I listened, and if you’d seen me at a red light, you’d wonder why that driver was grinning and nodding his head in time. I hadn’t read the notes (a forty-page booklet, with contributions by Julio Schwarz-Andrade, Colin, Hannah Krall, Andy Senior, Bryan Wright) and had only a vague idea of the repertoire, so in some ways I was the ideal listener, ready to hear the music without the historical apparatus and the assumptions it would necessarily impose.

I will write here what another reviewer would save as the closing “pull quote”: if you take any pleasure in the music that was American pop — not just hot jazz — before the Second World War, you will delight in COLLEGIATE.

You can hear selections from the recording, purchase a CD or download the music here. There are tastes from COLLEGIATE, MAPLE LEAF RAG, CONGAINE, ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP, CATARACT RAG BLUES, SAN, PERUNA, EVERY EVENING, SICK O’LICKS, IF I’M WITHOUT YOU — songs whose names will conjure up Twenties joys, Earl Hines, Jimmie Noone, Scott Joplin, and the ODJB . . but other songs and performances have connections to Ted Weems, Hal Kemp, Curtis Hitch, the Princeton Triangle Club Jazz Band, Jimmie Lunceford, the Cornell Collegians, Zach Whyte’s Chocolate Beau Brummels, Charlie Davis, Stu Pletcher and Carl Webster’s Yale Collegians.

What’s so good about it? The selections are beautifully played — with joy and spirit — and expansively recorded. When the whole ensemble gets going (and do they ever!) I thought I was listening to what the Paul Whiteman Orchestra must have sounded like in its heroic orchestral glory: the band and the recording have expansive life. And the solos are lyrical as well as hot, fully “in the idiom.” A good deal of this music has its roots in the Middle West rather than the South . . . so even though it may strike people who revere Louis as I do as heresy, the disc is delightful living proof that other, convincing, kinds of hot improvised music were being played and sung that owed little to Armstrongiana except for ingenuity and rhythmic enthusiasm.

I think of it as a good-natured rebuke to another stereotype, that “collegiate jazz” of the Twenties was primarily groups of young men jamming on pop tunes and originals of the day — I think of Squirrel Ashcraft and his friends, and it’s true that this CD has a goodly share of small-band hot . . . but that oversimplification is rather like saying that the Twenties = flappers, flivvers, and raccoon coats. The research that Colin and others have done results in a presentation that is imaginative and expansive: the twenty performances here are a kind of aesthetic kaleidoscope, all of it coming from similar syncopated roots but with delightfully varied results. No cliches.

And maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but the music produced by college students and graduates a hundred years later has a kind of spiritual authenticity. There is a good deal of thin, fragile “authenticity” out there among people attempting to play “vintage” music: this recording is real, both grounded and soaring.

The ensembles are wonderfully cohesive: that the players aren’t full-time musicians is something amazing. And there are vocal trios. I want nothing more. Everyone here is magna cum laude. And there was, as trumpeter-vocalist Lior Kreindler says in the video, marveling, “magic going on.”

May your happiness increase!

BIG SID and BENNY, TRIUMPHANT (September 27, 1941)

Sidney Catlett, Nice, 1948.

One of the benefits of “straightening up” is that, occasionally, treasures resurface.  Here’s one whose importance I can’t overestimate. But before I write a word more, this airshot of SING SING SING comes to us because of the generosity of Loren Schoenberg, master of so many arts, who played it on a broadcast he did over WKCR-FM perhaps thirty-five years ago. I captured it on cassette, and now share it with you. (Loren generously provided a pitch-corrected version for JAZZ LIVES.) It was not issued on Jerry Valburn’s set (lp and CD) of Goodman-Catlett recordings, should you reach for that set. Your ears will tell you so.

If you needed more evidence of the superhuman power and joy that Sidney Catlett brought to any group in his two-decades-plus playing career, this should do it. It also suggests, words I write with some ruefulness, why Benny Goodman fired him. Listening to this performance, it’s hard not to believe that Sid was leading the band and Benny was doing his best — which was considerable — to keep up. It also reminds us how much music the Swing Era bands created in performance that the 10″ 78 count not capture, because this performance is ten minutes long. Real life — for dancers, a band released from the recording studio. I bless the unidentified recordist, and so should you.

Here are the names of the heroes in that wonderful band, although on this performance, aside from brief ventures by Vido Musso and Mel Powell, by my count, six of the ten minutes are given over to a Catlett-Goodman experimental interlude in duet improvisation:

Billy Butterfield, Cootie Williams, Jimmy Maxwell, Al “Slim” Davis, trumpet; Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, trombone; Benny Goodman, clarinet; Skip Martin, Clint Neagley, alto saxophone; Vido Musso, George Berg, tenor saxophone; Chuck Gentry, baritone saxophone; Mel Powell, piano; Tom Morgan, guitar; Marty Blitz, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums.  Broadcast, “Meadowbrook,” Cedar Grove, New Jersey, September 27, 1941.

This is an extraordinary piece of music, full of courage, energy, and joy. I hope you feel about it as I do, and that, once again, we may extend our gratitude to Sidney, Benny, Loren, and someone sitting in front of the radio with a microphone and a disc cutter.

May your happiness increase!

SONATAS IN THE SUNSHINE (Opus One): RICKY ALEXANDER, JAY RATTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021

As James Chirillo has been known to say after a particularly satisfying session, “Music was made.” That it was, last Sunday afternoon in the bright sunshine (and cooling breezes) in front of the Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone. But before a note had been played, Jon-Erik noticed that the Check Engine light was shining from his trumpet, so he absented himself for a bit to get it looked at, secure that music would be made in his absence. (He came back before the set was over.)

This was a novel instrumentation, one that might have been either earthbound or unbalanced in the hands of lesser musicians. But the synergy here was more than remarkable, and the pleasure created in each chorus was palpable. This hot chamber trio — soaring, lyrical, rambunctious — performed six songs in their trio set. Here are the first three, to be savored.

SUNDAY, which goes back to 1926 (think Jean Goldkette and Cliff Edwards) but was also a favorite of Lester Young. Here, the Mini-EarRegulars also play the verse, an unexpected pleasure:

UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE was one of Frank Chace’s favorite songs, and I think of the tender version by Ella and Louis. A rarity, though: when was the last time you heard a group play it?

And Edgar Sampson’s rocking BLUE LOU:

A fellow listener turned to me between songs and said, marveling, “Aren’t they grand?” I agreed, as I hope you would have also.

Much more to come.

May your happiness increase!

“THE UNKNOWN ARV GARRISON: WIZARD OF THE SIX STRING / CLASSIC AND RARE RECORDINGS FROM THE 1940s”

This three-disc set released by Fresh Sounds is a cornucopia of pleasures, both musical and scholarly.

Arv Garrison (1922-60) was a superb guitarist, swinging and inventive, who understood how the melodic and rhythmic inventions of Django Reinhardt and others could be expanded into “the new thing” of Forties bebop. Although his recorded legacy is compact, it’s impressive and diversified. In his prime, he was respected and sought-after, as the names below prove. But for most of us he was hidden in plain sight. Now we can applaud what we approved of subliminally.

Garrison was adaptable; he fit easily into any context while remaining true to himself. He would be a wonderful question for a jazz-trivia night: “What musician played with Charlie Parker, Leo Watson, and Frankie Laine?” Although the most recent recording in this set is from 1948, his work still sounds fresh, and he doesn’t have a small assortment of favorite licks that grow overfamiliar quickly: he is, in the phrase beloved of new audience members, “making it up as he goes along.”

Here’s one version of WHERE YOU AT? — reminiscent of Frishberg before Frishberg:

The new focus on previously known recordings this set encourages is indeed enlightening: “fresh sounds” indeed. I’ve known only a dozen of the sixty-plus performances on this set, but I confess I never paid Garrison proper attention. Listening to YARDBIRD SUITE or A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, for instance, I was captivated by Bird and Miles; laughing my way through the Leo Watson session with Vic Dickenson, I knew there was an excellent guitarist, but I was waiting for Leo and Vic to return. (I’m sorry, Arv.)

But now, listening to him with new attention, I admire the easy brilliance of his soloing — his long lines that surprise, his reliable swing, and what he adds to the tonal color of the whole enterprise. Garrison knew his Django deeply, but he also had absorbed some of Charlie Christian’s loping audacity, and he easily breathed the harmonically-complex air that was 1946-48 California and New York. I also hear a creativity that runs parallel with Les Paul and Oscar Moore — who could be unaware of the early Nat Cole Trio recordings? — but he isn’t copying anyone. Garrison is comfortable in early classic Dial Records bebop; he can play a ballad with grace and emotional intelligence; he can swing out in the best Forties fashion. He’s delightful alongside Frankie Laine; he romps on his own, and he has confidence: in an AFRS broadcast where he solos alongside Barney Kessel, Les Paul, and Irving Ashby, he stands out. If he was intimidated by such fast company, no one heard it.

The nimble string bassist and singer-composer Vivien Garry, who married and outlived Garrison, was more than an oddity, more than a protege. She was the leader on more than half of the performances here, and she is far more than Samuel Johnson’s lady preacher. In fact, had the world of record producing been different (if our world was also) this would have been properly a dual feature. Her recording career began earlier and ended later; she performed with Benny Carter, Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, and was an integral part of two “all-girl” sessions. Garrison, a rather unworldly (or other-worldly?) young man, was no self-promoter, so we have to thank Garry for making a number of these record dates and radio appearances happen. Garrison was handsome, but Garry was that rarity — an attractive young woman jazz musician — and that helped a great deal in getting gigs, especially in the world of the late Forties where jazz and “entertainment” were friends. (Listen to Art Ford, on the WNEW broadcast — one that includes Charlie Ventura, Babs Gonzales, Kai Winding, and Lionel Hampton! — fuss over Arv and Vivien’s attractiveness, and you’ll understand.)

The musical content of this set is delightfully consistent; I listened to the three discs in two sittings, which is not my usual restless habit. Connoisseurs of the rare and obscure will also find much to delight them: private recordings, AFRS and commercial radio broadcasts, live remotes from a jazz club, and commercially issued 78s on the Sarco and Exclusive labels. Even scholars deep into this time and place will find surprises, and it’s easy to celebrate these three discs as musical anthropology of a world truly in flux.

The great surprise and pleasure is the nearly eighty-page book, with color illustrations (photographs and record labels, club ads) that accompanies this set. I’ve only read portions of it, because I wanted to listen to Arv and Vivien and friends without multi-tasking . . . but the book — to call it a “booklet” would be inaccurate — begins with twenty pages of intertwined portraiture by James A. Harrod and Bob Dietsche, the latter of who met and interviewed Vivien in the mid-Eighties, and it ends with Harrod’s detailed discography of the set.

In the middle is the real prize: nearly forty pages of beautifully detailed biographical-musical analysis by guitarist-scholar Nick Rossi, who has become one of my favorite jazz writers alongside Dan Morgenstern, Mark Miller, Loren Schoenberg, Dave Gelly, and Ricky Riccardi. Rossi does more than trace Garrison’s life from boyhood — staying up all hours playing along with Django in his room — to the sad end in a swimming accident before his 38th birthday. He has a fine awareness not only of guitar playing but of the art and history of jazz guitar and the contexts in which it became the jazz monolith it now is. Rossi’s writing is direct, evocative, clear, modest, and it welcomes the reader in, unlike other writers busy showing off how clever they are.

I’ve listened to the set with great pleasure, mingled with ruefulness that Garrison’s life and career ended as they did; now I plan to read Rossi’s essay with equal pleasure, and go back to the music. If that seems an expenditure of time and energy, I assure you that this set has already repaid me in excitement, discovery, and joys.

You can purchase the set at Amazon, no surprise, or directly from Fresh Sounds here, as I did (don’t let the price in euro scare you off if it’s not your native currency). Either way, it’s a lovely set.

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, or MARTY GROSZ SINGS OF ROMANCE: MARTY GROSZ, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM GICKING, JIM LAWLOR (Awbury Arboretum, June 13, 2021)

The Gentlemen of the Ensemble.

I am very pleased to be able to report that the Second Marty Party happened, that I attended same, and that I can share delightful video evidence with those of you who didn’t get to sit under the tent in the blissful night air. Immense thanks are due Barry Wahrhaftig for his inspired persistence and devotion to the art.

Martin Oliver Grosz with Vince Giordano.

The band — dubbed “Marty Grosz and the Self-Preservation Orchestra,” is Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, badinage; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal. Here they perform LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, which bows to Bing Crosby, Eddie Condon, Milt Gabler, and Pee Wee Russell. Shades of Fifty-Second Street under the tent, among the trees:

More to come!

May your happiness increase!

ONE OF A HUNDRED GOLDEN ERAS and WE BLESS THE ARCHIVISTS: WILD BILL DAVISON, JIM GALLOWAY, DAN BARRETT, KEITH INGHAM, MILT HINTON, MARTY GROSZ, RUSS FEARON (1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival, Toronto, Canada)

Wild Bill Davison, Bern, 1985.

A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.

Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.

The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.

Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):

Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.

Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.

Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!

May your happiness increase!

HOLY RELICS: 1. ALBERTON HANSON, MUSIC LOVER (1940-41). 2. MISS WILEY, SIREN.

It’s amazing how tiny relics carry such weight and hint at such stories. Here’s a small collection of autographs for sale (for the moment) on eBay, and the link is here:

If possible, the back sides of these slips of paper — eighty years old — are even more revealing:

I wrote to the seller who promptly and politely told me that Maxwell’s was in St. Joseph’s, Missouri (although a few might be from his father’s move to Los Angeles), and that these were his father’s treasures — and that “Albertina” might have been an example of his “off-the-wall humor.” So there you have it — a little in-person slice of life documenting what it would be like to stand in front of the band and ask Mr. Miller or Mr. Cole for an autograph — when the Cab Calloway band played the “Frog Hop” — an actual place, a ballroom built by one Frank Frogge.

What a wonderful thing that these pages survive!

In the same eBay sweep, I found these portraits of Miss Lee Wiley, who obviously might have been a film siren if the circumstances had been different. Rumor has it that her one film appearance (circa 1936, in a variety short with Woody Herman) never was seen because she was so difficult to work with. But these photographs are powerful evidence of her beautiful sensuality — even when she wasn’t singing.

Star of radio — which was THE medium for music in 1934.
What beauty.
I wonder what the photographer suggested to her.
I think the song on the piano is NO MORE LOVE, popular in 1933.
Later, c. 1944, perhaps by Gjon Mili for LIFE, with momentary-husband Jess Stacy.

Here’s Lee with Leo Reisman in 1931, singing Vincent Youmans:

Thanks to eBay, the world’s attic, and to the sellers who keep finding things for us to rhapsodize over.

May your happiness increase!

DREAM YOUR TROUBLES AWAY: DANNY TOBIAS and The SAFE SEXTET — JIM LAWLOR, RANDY REINHART, DANNY TOBIAS, MARK SHANE, JOE PLOWMAN, PAT MERCURI (Pennsylvania Jazz Society, June 13, 2021)

The reedman-raconteur Leroy “Sam” Parkins used to say that certain performers and performances “got” him “right in the gizzard.” I only know the gizzard from chickens, but I know what he meant: when a vocal or instrumental performance makes it hard to breathe because of an inrush of emotion. I feel that way when I hear Louis perform THAT’S MY HOME, or see the clip of Fred Astaire singing to soapily-coiffed Ginger Rogers THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT. Very quietly, I will begin to cry, because too much feeling is coursing through me.

The 1931 sheet music.
Photograph by Lynn Redmile.

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS is a song I’ve had a long relationship with, through my early attachment to Bing Crosby, also because its optimistic lyrics suggest that travail is finite, that recovery is possible . . . if only we are able to envision a happier future. (I am also moved by Eddy Howard’s version where Bennie Morton caresses the melody as only he can.)

But when Danny Tobias looked at his song list last Sunday and called this as the next tune, I did not expect to be in tears. I was. I haven’t heard Jim Lawlor sing frequently enough to expect that he would “get” me as he did, but he did, as did everyone in this performance. Heartfelt, expert, plain, superb. Every note, every turn of phrase or nuance.

Lucky for me, I was sitting close to a doctor, who asked me if I was all right, and I could tearfully nod my head yes. See if you don’t feel emotions coursing through you. And I hope the performance reminds you that you might just “dream your troubles away”:

Dreams do come true, and the transformation from wish to reality can be expressed in music like this.

If you enjoyed this band — a silly rhetorical question, no? — there are more performances to be shared with you as well as this delicious plateful of sounds (where you can also learn more about the Pennsylvania Jazz Society and their upcoming jazz concerts):

May your happiness increase!

EHUD ASHERIE INVITES US TO COME ALONG (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 16, 2016)

One of the pleasures of (let us say) 2010-2020 in New York City was the many opportunities to hear the brilliant pianist Ehud Asherie play — someone who knew both Bud Powell and Donald Lambert but was utterly himself, always unpredictable, always melodic and swinging. Here, Ehud takes us on a trip around the world, through every kind of pianistic expression from tango to reverie to explosive stride, with FON FON (Ernesto Nazareth), LUSH LIFE (Billy Strayhorn), and SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (Carmen Lombardo):

I don’t know when Ehud will play his next New York gig, but I hope it’s soon: we need his quirky wise art.

May your happiness increase!

AN INSPIRED DREAM IN SUNDAY’S SUNSHINE: THE EarRegulars at THE EAR OUT: JON-ERIK KELLSO, JAY RATTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI, TAL RONEN (June 6, 2021)

Late in the day, The EarRegulars with guests: Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, Tal Ronen, Josh Dunn, Albanie Falletta, June 6, 2021, outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

JAZZ LIVES’ readers are an erudite lot, so they know the story of WILLIE THE WEEPER, a craftsperson with a substance abuse problem, to use 2021 terminology. In the song’s original lyrics, of which there are many variants, Willie was a low-down chimney sweeper with a “hop” (opium) habit, which afforded him the most extravagant dreams. An engaging song even without the lyrics, it made its way into Chicago jazz and thus the larger musical world through recordings by Louis Armstrong and others in the later Twenties. And should you investigate the lyrics, you would find that WILLIE is a surrogate parent to MINNIE THE MOOCHER, a creation that Cab Calloway enjoyed for decades.

Jon-Erik, intent.
Jay and Tal, savoring the depths.

The people you see in the photographs above are heroes of mine: they give their hearts to this music, which doesn’t always pay them back generously in currency. They “play their personalities,” as Roswell Rudd told me. They know how to sit up straight and color within the lines when necessary, but they also have huge wandering imaginations that delight and surprise. One of the most delightful of this delightful crew is the quiet subversive Jay Rattman, who brought his clarinet and alto saxophone to yesterday’s heartfelt fiesta. Jay looks prudent, serene: you would have no hesitation about co-signing a small loan for him, or letting him order dinner for the group. Not only would he “help the old lady across the street,” he would even first establish that she wanted to go.

Matt, characteristically in motion.

So what happened on WILLIE THE WEEPER — the fourth song of this warm breezy Sunday afternoon — was a wondrous surprise. Jay was surrounded by a mutual admiration society: Tal Ronen, string bass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet. I don’t know whether Jay was having a good time with the idea of weeping, or of opium dreams, or if he was simply basking in the joy of being outside among friends playing music . . . but his choruses are the most extravagant — and memorable — dreams. He didn’t implode the song, but he certainly tested its durable elasticity. See and hear for yourself:

To quote Jon-Erik, “Fun one, to be sure.” If you haven’t spent a Sunday afternoon in the company of these wonderful creators, I encourage you to do so. When the sun is shining, 1-3:30, in front of 326 Spring Street. And as hot as it was yesterday, the river provided cooling breezes. As did the music — thrilling, mournful, uplifting.

May your happiness increase!

“PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS”: STEPHANE GRAPPELLI, LEE KONITZ, JIMMIE ROWLES, JOHN ETHERIDGE, DIZ DIZLEY, JACK SEWING at NICE (July 1978)

This set, blessedly preserved, reminds me of inventive restaurant cuisine, where one reads a listing of items one doesn’t expect to find together . . . but the result is surprising and memorable: music that tastes good to the ear. Violinist Stephane Grappelli’s group was patterned after the Quintette of the Hot Club of France — violin, two guitars, string bass — although he, not Django, was the star . . . with guitarists John Etheridge and Diz Dizley, string bassist Jack Sewing, whom I initially mis-identified as Brian Torff. Add to this established group the wondrous individualists Jimmie Rowles, piano, and Lee Konitz, alto saxophone, and unusual sounds result.

Whether everyone dispersed after the set saying, “Wow, that was fun!” or “Why can’t I pick my own friends to perform with?” I have no idea, but the three-quarters of an hour that we have is certainly not formulaic. You can do your own assessment: late-period Stephane, still rhapsodic, given to heroically fast tempos, playing “jazz standards,”; Lee Konitz and Jimmie Rowles on top of a QHCF rhythm team. I think the assemblage is both unpredictable and wonderful:

Stephane Grappelli, violin; Diz Dizley, John Etheridge, guitars; Jack Sewing, string bass.
I WONDER WHERE MY BABY IS TONIGHT / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS / CRAZY RHYTHM / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE /

add Lee Konitz HONEYSUCKLE ROSE

add Jimmie Rowles LET’S FALL IN LOVE / I’LL REMEMBER APRIL /

Grappelli Quartet: MANOIR DE MES REVES – DAPHNE /

Konitz, Rowles return SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (incomplete on original):

Bless these players, and bless the Grande Parade du Jazz also.

NOT SO SLEEPY: DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, ALLAN VACHE, DAN BLOCK, BOB HAVENS, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, PAUL KELLER, EDDIE METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 25, 2014)

SLEEP cover

The last song of the night, when both musicians and the audience are drained, is traditionally a rouser.  When everyone is overwhelmed by an evening of sensations, the leader might call for SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, or JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE to send the crowd to their rooms feeling exhilarated, feeling that they’ve got their money’s worth.  In truth, some of these spectacles seem formulaic, seasoned lightly with desperation: I would imagine that the last thing the band wants to do is to play Fast and Loud through weary lips and hands, but it’s expected of them.

I always think that calling AFTER YOU’VE GONE is an inside joke — a hot way of saying, “Could you go away, already?” to an audience that surely has had its fill.  (Audience members sometimes stand up and shout “MORE! MORE!” although they’ve been well and over-fed, and perhaps have talked through the last set.)  For Duke Heitger to call SLEEP as a closing tune is a nice bundle of ironies: it doubles as the kind suggestion, “Go to bed, so that we can stop playing and relax,” but it’s also a high-energy, spectacular jazz performance.  The song didn’t begin that way.  Here’s Fred Waring’s first recorded performance of it (he took it as his band’s theme):

So it began as lulling, soporific, but since 1940 (Benny Carter’s big band) and 1944 (Sid Catlett – Ben Webster) the song SLEEP has often been a high-powered showcase . . . as it is here, featuring Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Eddie Metz, drums. 

Please note all the fun these possibly-exhausted musicians are having: the glance Bucky gives Rossano when the latter begins the performance, “Oh, so THAT’s the tempo?!” and the delightful hi-jinks between Eddie, Paul, and Rossano (Eddie, especially, is the boy at the back of the classroom passing notes while Mrs. McGillicuddy is droning on about the Pyramids) — they way the horns float and soar; Duke’s idea of having an ensemble chorus in the middle of the tune (no one else does this); Bucky’s super-turbo-charged chord solo, Paul and Eddie taking their romping turns, all leading up to a very tidy two-chorus rideout. 

If you’re like me, one viewing won’t be enough: 

I don’t feel sleepy at all.

May your happiness increase!Bunk Johnson FB

A LITTLE LOUIS IN THE PUB: TORSTEIN KUBBAN, MENNO DAAMS, LARS FRANK, THOMAS WINTELER, JON PENN, and FRIENDS (November 5, 2016, Newcastle, UK)

The performance that follows — incredibly passionate music in honor of Mister Strong — was created at an after-hours jam session in the Victory Pub in the Village Hotel, Newcastle (after the formal proceedings of the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival had concluded for the day, November 5, 2016) featuring Torstein Kubban, trumpet; Menno Daams, cornet; Thomas Winteler, clarinet / soprano saxophone; Lars Frank, tenor saxophone; Jon Penn, keyboard; unidentified, string bass.

P.S. Comments noting — what a surprise! — that the audience isn’t silent will be deleted. It’s a pub, for goodness’ sake. They were enjoying themselves: savor the music:

May your happiness increase!

WHEN JAZZ WENT TO COLLEGE, NEARLY 75 YEARS AGO: MAX KAMINSKY, MIFF MOLE, TONY PARENTI, ART HODES, JAMES P. JOHNSON, JIMMY BUTTS, DANNY ALVIN (May 3, 1947, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York)

When I convinced myself that I needed more records, and would go through boxes at the yard sale, antique store, or secondhand shop, I would often encounter Dave Brubeck’s JAZZ GOES TO COLLEGE. Much rarer and never seen were Max Kaminsky’s JAZZ ON THE CAMPUS and the wonderful series of small-band recordings Billy Butterfield made on one and another college campus. Of course, going back a few decades, bands played dances. The college I once taught at had a notation in its files that a Charles Mingus group had played there in 1973: of course, the cassette that had captured the music was now missing.

I sense that college audiences, once rock came in, wanted the most “modern” music, which meant that jazz rarely was on the bill. But in 1947, a college audience was not too hip for TIN ROOF BLUES. And — if I can take the risk — “Dixieland” was popular: think of THIS IS JAZZ on the Mutual radio network. Although the players on this gig — at the Alumni Gymnasium at Hamilton College — were venerable, they were still late-middle-aged: Miff Mole had just turned fifty, James P. Johnson, fifty-four.

Late in life, Miff Mole shared what no one then called “contact information.”

So here is the popular music of ago, played with Dispatch and Vigor (a nod to Marty Grosz, now ninety-one and concertizing next week in Philadelphia) by Max Kaminsky, cornet or trumpet; Miff Mole, trombone; Tony Parenti, clarinet; Art Hodes or James P. Johnson*, piano; Jimmy Butts, string bass; Danny Alvin, drums.

BLUES / ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP / JAZZ BAND BALL* / PEG O’MY HEART / BALLIN’ THE JACK / BASIN STREET BLUES / MUSKRAT RAMBLE* / TIN ROOF BLUES / SQUEEZE ME* / THAT’S A-PLENTY / HOW COME YOU DO ME? / (James P. Johnson solo) BACKWATER BLUES / LIZA / SNOWY MORNING BLUES / CAROLINA SHOUT / (James P. Johnson, Parenti, Alvin) MAPLE LEAF RAG / BLACK AND BLUE / (solo) BOOGIE WOOGIE STRIDE – TEA FOR TWO //

James P. Johnson, date and location unknown

This transfer came from the collection of the late John L. Fell, who was a student at Hamilton, and someone had access to the original discs. BACK WATER BLUES and LIZA were issued on an lp compilation of James P. performances, “AIN’T CHA GOT MUSIC?” worth finding, on Bob Hilbert’s Pumpkin Records label. There was, John told me, a private party after the concert, where someone recorded James P. playing LIZA / HALLELUJAH / BOOGIE WOOGIE STRIDE – TEA FOR TWO – SQUEEZE ME / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK – I CAN’T GET STARTED / KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW. But James P. became inebriated and his playing was not up to his usual standard, I remember John explaining.

Here’s what we have of the concert, and of those days when hot music was in the air, on the campus, and welcome everywhere:


I looked up “May 3, 1947” in Tom Lord’s online jazz discography, and found that Bunk Johnson and Don Ewell were playing a college concert at Coffman Memorial Auditorium, the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. A different time zone and more than eleven hundred miles away, but evidence that the kids dug the hot sounds.

And before you nostalgicize too much, remember that it you were even a precocious college student at either concert, you’d be over ninety now. Choose cautiously before you step into your home-built time machine.

May your happiness increase!