Category Archives: SURPRISE!

“THE CHARMS ABOUT YOU / WILL CARRY ME THROUGH”: BECKY KILGORE and EHUD ASHERIE at MEZZROW (January 18, 2017)

There are any number of ways to sing this Irving Berlin song, and the same for piano accompaniment, but this duet thrills me: Rebecca Kilgore and Ehud Asherie at Mezzrow, almost five years ago. She glides; he rollicks. Singers and pianists, take note! Take notes!

Heaven, we’re in Heaven. Facebook pointed out to me that one year ago today I posted audio of Becky singing Berlin with James Dapogny. Spooky and delicious.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

SIDNEY CATLETT RULES (June 28, 1949)

This post — and the musical surprise it contains — are inspired by my friend Nick Rossi’s celebration of Sidney Catlett’s birthday on Facebook. Nick posted the cosmically glorious STEAMIN’ AND BEAMIN’ by an Edmond Hall group on Blue Note — including Bennie Morton and Harry Carney, so you know it’s remarkable.

There are two or three sessions that Sidney graced, late in his recording career, that have eluded me: one is by “Gloria Mac,” which I suspect might be a mis-typing of “Gloria Mae”:

Gloria Mac (vcl) acc by Dick Vance (tp) Sandy Williams (tb) Hilton Jefferson (as) George “Big Nick” Nicholas (ts) Bill McRae (p) Thomas Barney (b) Sidney Catlett (d)
New York, May 5, 1949
G657 The one in your memory Abbey 75
G658 What is this thing called love ? –

I dream of hearing Sandy Williams backed by Sidney . . .

I thought the other session would be equally elusive, but I found two of the four sides on the Internet Archive, the treasure chest of unimagined joys:

Kirby Walker Orchestra : Dick Vance (tp) Benny Morton (tb) Hilton Jefferson (as) Sam “The Man” Taylor (ts) Kirby Walker (p,vcl) Al Hall (b) Sidney Catlett (d)
New York, June 28, 1949

CO40919 Oh I’m evil Col 30178
CO40920 High brow blues 30170
CO40921 Juke box time 30178
CO40922 Shut up 30170

Before I proceed to the music — that delightful reward — I will note that Kirby Walker doesn’t impress me greatly as lyricist or singer, but he is middle-competent. Both sides are well-arranged, with a written duet for Taylor and Jefferson: I would guess that the charts are by Dick Vance, and they are reminiscent of Hot Lips Page and Wynonie Harris’ contemporaneous efforts: good-time music, no demands made on it to be innovative. And while you’re listening closely, pay attention to the beautiful sound and reliable drive of Al Hall — someone I had the good fortune to see in person circa 1974-5 (Bennie Morton as well).

But the reason to shine a light on these brief interludes is the magisterial presence of Sidney, whose powerful accents, rimshots, and direction are strong but never obtrusive. HE is leading the band, propelling, orchestrating, and shaping the performances. Masterfully.

Here is OH I’M EVIL. (You can find another version of Kirby Walker performing this song on the air, for the 1947 THIS IS JAZZ series, on YouTube.)

And here is JUKE BOX TIME (when did the juke box get the name “piccolo”?) with Sidney in especially wonderful form in the second half of the record — kicking Taylor into action and then driving the band exuberantly.

He was such a phenomenon: a percussion orchestra who could be so very gentle when the music required it. Gone in 1951, his loss a tragedy that still reverberates. The only compensation for his abrupt death, his short life, is that he was very well-represented in recordings from 1928 (Al Wynn) to 1950 (Muggsy Spanier): everyone wanted the Catlett magic in their band, from Bechet to Byas to Bird. They knew full well what having Sidney behind the drums meant.

May your happiness increase!

JIMMIE ROWLES and SIR ROLAND HANNA at the GRANDE PARADE DU JAZZ, RESTORED (July 11, 1978)

Jimmie Rowles (courtesy of last.fm)

So much of life is a collective enterprise. My breakfast is the result of animals, farmers and truckers and grocers, even though I made the coffee and omelet myself.

This blog is my own little farm, and the produce wouldn’t exist without the musicians, and sharing it couldn’t happen without the help of friends and scholars, generous in so many ways. One such fellow is the tireless Franz Hoffmann, known for his work in documenting jazz in various media and extensive minute-by-minute research into, among others, Henry “Red” Allen and J. C. Higginbotham. Franz also reads this blog and saw my presentation of the performance done by Jimmie Rowles and Sir Roland Hanna — divided in two in the middle of a song and dark as could be. He, without my asking, sent brighter copies with the songs logically separated.

Watching this restored version, it was as if I’d never seen it before, so I invite you to this new pleasure also, with thanks and salutations to Franz. To Jimmie and Sir Roland, of course. And this post is in honor of someone who loves and evokes Jimmie, the pianist Michael Kanan, who celebrated a birthday earlier this month. Now to music.

THESE FOOLISH THINGS:

I LOVE YOU:

INDIANA:

MY FUNNY VALENTINE:

ORNITHOLOGY:

Quite grand, no? Be generous today.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

PART TWO: WE STILL MISS JOHN SHERIDAN (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2012)

Every time he faced the piano, John Sheridan generously shared his affection for the melody, his consistent clarity and coherence. His creations passed what I think of as the test of great art: making it look so simple when it is anything but. And his swinging rhythmic energies never failed us. Here are two more (previously unseen) performances from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend.

Terry Shand’s LOVE LIES (a delightful nod to Louis in the middle):

Irving Berlin, over rolling rhythms:

and — something I wanted more people to experience — because beneath the surface gruffness, John was a deep romantic, Frank Loesser’s I’VE NEVER BEEN IN LOVE BEFORE:

These three performances are only a small part of why we miss John Sheridan. Fortunately for us, he recorded prolifically on Arbors Records and was caught often on YouTube . . . but those reminders are now poignant as well as memorable.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

ALLEN, FROM ROCHESTER, NEW YORK, HAD A CAMERA (circa 1940)

First, an appropriate soundtrack:

and:

Here’s how the eBay seller described this unique object:

“Absolutely mammoth early 1940s photo album with 690 original photographs. Album of Allen, an African American man – a chauffeur, photos of his friends and family, the family he works for and various travel locations. Rochester, NY, factors heavily – not sure if Allen, the family he works for – or both, are from Rochester. Also a lot of photos in New York City.

There are photos of famous jazz age / big band era musicians and band leaders performing, including Cab Calloway, Cozy Coles, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Erskine Hawkins, Dolores Brown, Tony Pastor with the Andrew Sisters, Bunny Berigan, with some of the photos autographed.

Measuring 12 x 8 inches and 4 inches thick. Album has wooden cover, with WWII Army Navy Excellence award decal and initial decals “A R A.” There are only a couple of photos of a man in uniform, nearly all photos are civilian, and most are of African Americans. Photos in various sizes: mostly 5 x 3 ¼ inches, 4 x 3 black and white and some 6 x 4 with more sepia tone. Photos are attached to album by photo squares, a handful of photos are loose from the album . . . .”

The auction ended Thursday, and when I checked on Wednesday the high bid was over eight hundred dollars. So it’s not mine.

BUT. Through the magic of “Save image,” which sounds rather mystical, I can share a few particularly evocative photographs. Allen was not an obsessive jazz or big band fan, but the few photographs in the album suggest that he got around and heard some of the good sounds so easily accessible then.

First, some photographs of non-musical realities.

Charming everyday life, perhaps a Sunday outing in spring?

I don’t know whether Allen took the photograph of his five friends, but the caption suggests a fine witty approach to life, at the beach or otherwise.

Even though Allen was presumably the family chauffeur, that’s a comfortable photograph, to me.

Now, to music. Allen went to see the Erskine Hawkins band, and the captions suggest he had a fine swinging time.

The leader to the left, who autographed the photo (at a later date, I presume) and one of Hawkins’ saxophonists to the right: either Paul Bascomb or Julian Dash, I assume.

Witty captions left and right, and the gracious Mr. Berigan (who had beautiful unhurried handwriting) in the middle.

Cozy “Coles,” working for Cab Calloway.

Finally, the prize for those of us whose life revolves around such glimpses:

Benny, with immense casualness — in a pose your clarinet teacher wouldn’t recommend — and a quick signature, but a new glimpse of Charlie Christian, which also helps to date the album.

I wish we knew more about Allen, but this was his prize, and we assume someone will always recognize our treasures as ours . . .

The highest bidder won this prize for $1325 (plus $12 shipping) and for them, a world opens up. I hope the photographs get seen by as many people as possible. This was the link, although I don’t know how long it will remain.

Thanks to Nick Rossi for bringing this box of treasures to my attention.

May your happiness increase!

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

Photograph by David Redfern

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

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

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

A Bold Explorer for sure.

May your happiness increase!

DAVE TOUGH AND FRIENDS AT CARNEGIE HALL: CHARLIE VENTURA, BILL HARRIS, RALPH BURNS, BILL DeARANGO, CURLY RUSSELL (April 5, 1947)

Here’s some extraordinary music that doesn’t often get shared, and it affords us opportunities to hear the singular percussionist Dave Tough late in his life playing the music he most preferred then. The occasion was a concert apparently produced (and recorded) by Leonard Feather, with the tapes sold to Norman Granz for issue on his Norgran label. This was a 12″ lp, and then issued on CD as filler material for Verve’s optimistically-named THE COMPLETE JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC ON VERVE, a ten-disc set. Another portion of the concert has Sidney Catlett playing drums: material for a future posting.

Some mysteries accompany this issue: no one has yet documented all the music played that evening: there has to have been more than thirty-six minutes. The record sleeve mis-identifies Dave as playing (JUST YOU, JUST ME) when it is audibly Sidney. And it is difficult to ascertain the order of performance. But perhaps there is a jazz Hercule Poirot who can solve these mysteries. For now, let us hear Dave in the company of Charlie Ventura, tenor saxophone; Bill Harris, trombone; Ralph Burns, piano; Bill DeArango, guitar; Curly Russell, string bass.

Here’s CHARACTERISTICALLY B.H., for the wonderfully versatile Harris:

and RALPH BURNS UP, by Ralph, Curly, and Dave:

finally, Ventura rhapsodizing on one of the great tenor sax ballads:

More to come, with Sidney and friends. Thanks to Hal Smith and Kevin Dorn for their erudite assistance with this music.

May your happiness increase!

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

Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known

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

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

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

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

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

and Rodgers and Hart’s BLUE MOON:

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

May your happiness increase!

BILLY BUTTERFIELD and ASSOCIATES on the RADIO (WJZ, Blue Network, December 13, 1944)

What follows is a few seconds less than eight minutes, so you could be forgiven for thinking it a crumb, a scrap — especially in our times of unlimited streaming, box sets with hours of music, and more. But as you’ll hear, it is testimony to the Elders’ ability to fill small spaces brimful with memorable, varied sounds. My guess is that trumpeter Billy and colleagues were on staff at the Blue Network (ask someone venerable what that means in radio-lingo . . . this predates FM) and this little program was a brief scheduled interlude, something to look forward to on Wednesdays. But it’s clearly not impromptu: there’s a theme, a pop song, a ballad, a “Dixieland classic,” (faded out for time) — quite a large portion of music packed in tightly.

And let us say a word about Mr. Butterfield, someone not often given his proper due, overshadowed by more showy brassmen, perhaps, and not an “entertainer,” rather, a shy man who wanted to play but not to talk. But when Bobby Hackett was asked in an early Seventies interview to name his favorite current trumpeter (admittedly a question many would have sidestepped) he named Billy. THAT, to me, says so much. And this group is so stylish yet also so profound. Sleek but not slick, and versatile beyond praise.

The Billy Butterfield Septet (all “characters,” as the announcer states) offer an opening theme / GAL FROM NOGALES / MAYBE / SATANIC BLUES. I’ve identified the players by ear and by reasonable assumptions: possibly Bill Stegmeyer, clarinet, arrangements; Hymie Schertzer, alto saxophone; Deane Kincaide, baritone saxophone, arrangements; Vernon Brown, trombone; Dave Bowman, piano; Bob Haggart, string bass; George Wettling, drums:

If any reader has a large collection of these Wednesday interludes, or knows more about the personnel than I do, please step forward. This lovely offering came from the collection of my dear friend John L. Fell, about thirty years ago, but it stood alone. As I’ve said before, imagine these beauties coming out of the radio speaker . . . . nectar for the ears. And thank goodness someone had the wisdom to preserve this one. . . a brief but intense bouquet from musicians both professional and inspired.

This one’s for Judi, Debbie, Clyde, Pat, and their families.

May your happiness increase!

A GREAT BAND YOU MIGHT NEVER HAVE HEARD: “THE GOLD COAST JAZZ BAND,” TED BUTTERMAN, BOB SUNDSTROM, FRANK CHACE, PETER NYEGAARD, ART GRONWALL, RANSOM KNOWLING, WAYNE JONES (Gate of Horn, Chicago, January 9, 1961)

Probably most readers have never heard of this band, although the names of Wayne Jones, Frank Chace, Ted Butterman, and perhaps Ransom Knowling will be familiar. I don’t know how I got in touch with Wayne, who died in 2013, but we shared a deep love of clarinetist Frank Chace, so we traded a few cassettes. Incidentally, several organizations call themselves by this name, but the one you will hear existed in Chicago in the first half of the 1960s.

Before I proceed, take a few minutes to remember Wayne — man and musician, recalled so well and affectionately by the fine drummer and writer Hal Smith here. Two of the three cassettes Wayne sent me were by the GOLD COAST JAZZ BAND, recorded on Mondays (an off-night) at the famous and now-departed folk-music club, “Gate of Horn,” on Dearborn Street in Chicago.

(If you’d like to hear more from and about the Gold Coast delegates of joy, John Clark’s podcast about the band with four performances from slightly later incarnations can be enjoyed here.)

But our focus today is a very vibrant recording of two sets by a particularly vibrant 1961 band: Ted Butterman, cornet; Peter Nyegaard, trombone; Frank Chace, clarinet (possibly subbing for Kim Cusack); Art Gronwall, piano; Bob Sundstrom, banjo and vocal on ALL BY MYSELF; Ransom Knowling, string bass; Wayne Jones, drums. Ted and Bob were co-leaders of the band. The songs are SMILES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / I WANT A LITTLE GIRL / BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME / ALL OF ME (Chace’s melody chorus!) / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART (with Condon “Town Hall” breaks at end) // SOUTH / INDIANA / HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO? / ALL BY MYSELF (Sundstrom, vocal) / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

The tape shows us a remarkable bunch of hot players, their improvisations free from cliche but full of personality. I am struck beyond words by Frank Chace’s lyrical courage and singularity, but the energy level is superb throughout, the swing, the inventiveness. Wonderful ensemble work, inventive solos, and a trotting rhythm section: a small treasure. I wrote a recent post [“WHO KILLED HISTORY?”] urging listeners and musicians to be curious; you might know none of the names of the players, but you will be entranced by this band sixteen bars in to the first selection.

There’s more to come from another evening with this band (with surprise guests), the following Monday night: a gift from the generous Wayne Jones, who lives on in sound and spirit.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

MY FUNNY VALENTINE (concluded) / ORNITHOLOGY:

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

May your happiness increase!

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

Young Bobby Hackett

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collins jokes and talks to fill time . . .

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

TRIBUTE TO BIX: DICK SUDHALTER, GEORGE BARNES, JOE VENUTI, MARTY GROSZ, MICHAEL MOORE, RAY MOSCA (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 23, 1975)

Since I’ve been collecting recordings of jazz music in every conceivable form for over fifty years, I don’t always know what I have — which makes for a certain disorganization. (Some people I know have spreadsheets, indices, notebooks of their holdings: not me.) But it also makes for delirious surprises, one of which I will share with you.

The eminent (and generous-spirited) jazz writer and historian Derek Coller was at the 1975 Nice Jazz Festival, an experience I envy. But he also brought along a portable cassette recorder, and sent me copies for me of the tapes he achieved. Wonderful gifts. The sound isn’t recording-studio, and there is talk from enthusiastic fans, but the results are priceless.

Here is the last set of July 23, 1975: Dick Sudhalter, cornet; George Barnes, electric guitar; Joe Venuti, violin; Marty Grosz, guitar; Michael Moore, string bass; Ray Mosca, drums, paying tribute to the dear boy from Davenport, Iowa. Everyone is in wonderful form — even though Joe is characteristically a little overbearing — but the hero of this set is George Barnes, leaping in at wonderfully odd angles, honoring a musician and an inspiration.

JAZZ ME BLUES / SUNDAY [a few measures missing, possibly the tape being turned over] / BLUE RIVER (Sudhalter-Grosz) / SWEET SUE (Sudhalter out) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / SAN //

Somewhere, Bix is grinning, because these noble creatures had the right idea: follow their impulses, and who knows what’s coming next? — rather than bowing down to the past. I hope you agree.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, and the GRAND STREET STOMPERS CHASE THE GRINCH AWAY (Chelsea Table and Stage, December 3, 2021)

I won’t dignify the Grinch by posting his portrait here: there’s enough negativity in the world and you can find his grim visage by yourself. I prefer happier scenes, such as the ones that occurred when Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers brought their “Holiday Stomp” to the new Chelsea Table and Stage (26th Street, off Seventh Avenue, in New York City).

Tamar Korn, voice and so much more; Rob Adkins, string bass; Matt Koza, reeds; Nick Russo, guitar and banjo; Gordon Au, trumpet, leader, composer, arranger; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Shane Del Robles, drums. [Not portrayed here, Molly Ryan, vocal.] Photograph by Ben Guthrie.
Gordon Au. Photograph by Neal Siegal.

Late in the evening, Gordon — courageous among equally courageous colleagues — called for a song that Tamar and the band had only done once before, at the sound check, a song with yards of vaudeville-patter or pre-rap lyrics, YOU’RE A MEAN ONE, MISTER GRINCH. Our heroic pal Tamar bravely essayed it with all the hilarious and endearing theatricality she possesses, which is (as they say) plenty. It took a few seconds for the performance to right itself, but it’s not the successes, instead, the recoveries that count so deeply.

I was there with my camera, and shot a video of this performance — this priceless performance (which Tamar has given me permission to share with you) from the table where I and the OAO were sitting. Thus, you get a diner’s -eye view, with heads in the way. But it has a certain “you are there” quality. And we were.


Gordon told me that the venue itself had created four videos from an overhead angle, and — after seeing their creation — I insisted on using it also. Think of it as an alternative reality, quite wonderful. And, as he pointed out, we now have four beginnings to experience.

Tamar sings, “Wish me luck!” at the start, but it’s clear that neither she nor the Grand Street Stompers need it. If you would like to learn more about them, you can of course follow them on Facebook or visit their website here. They have created three CDs and two digital sessions (the latter available at Bandcamp).

There will be more to come from this night at the Chelsea Table and Stage: I thank them all, four times.

Someone told me that the Grinch was last seen on Seventh Avenue, stuffing himself into an Uber, fleeing as fast as he can, destination unknown.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

Here’s some joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait! There’s more!

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

For now, enjoy the pleasures above.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!