Category Archives: The Heroes Among Us

“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!

BOSTON, 1951: BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, GENE SEDRIC, TEDDY ROY, BILL GOODALL, BUDDY LOWELL (WHDH: The Music Box, Copley Square, March 26, 1951)

As Richard Vacca, author of THE BOSTON JAZZ CHRONICLES, can tell us, Boston was a hot town for jazz, vying with Chicago for second place to New York City. In the Forties and Fifties, there seemed to be a regular commute between the two cities, with steady gigs flourishing. Louis and Bird, Bechet and Tatum, Newton and Sullivan, Fats and Big Sid . . . the list of performers and performances is a long one. And there were radio broadcasts from Boston clubs. Here’s a brief taste of what was happening and what was captured off the air.

Bobby, listening to Vic Dickenson at Childs Paramount, October 1952

This glimpse into an animated past comes from the Music Box, where Bobby Hackett had a residency in early 1951, with his great friend and partner Vic Dickenson, trombone; Gene Sedric, clarinet; Teddy Roy (an old Boston friend), piano; Bill Goodall, string bass; Buddy Lowell, drums.

Caveat for the sensitive: there are vestiges of AM-radio static. (The original tape ran quite fast, but the generous Chris Tyle stepped in and fixed that, so nicely.) But you are made of strong stuff, and can surmount such things. The songs are Bobby’s theme for these gigs, STREET OF DREAMS, and then three “Dixieland” classics, SQUEEZE ME, ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, and BYE AND BYE. The band usually broadcast on Fridays, but this was a Monday-night special. The tape came to me from my dear friend and benefactor John L. Fell, his source unknown. Both Bobby and Vic are in tremendous form, leaping into their solos.

More from Spring 1951 in Boston is coming soon: the Hackett band in a longer broadcast, and a Sunday-afternoon jam session from Storyville, featuring Johnny Windhurst, Peanuts Hucko, Dick Le Fave, George Wein, John Field, Marquis Foster, and guests.

Don’t touch that dial.

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!

“WARM WATERS, SUNNY AFTERNOONS, AND PACKED DANCE FLOORS”: THE PLEASURES OF CHARLIE HALLORAN’S “ALCOA SESSIONS”

Charlie and friends at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, 2018

The trombonist Charlie Halloran has a sweetly audacious imagination. We can all say, “I wonder what this combination of musical experiences would sound like”; Charlie goes ahead and gives his brightly-colored set of possibilities musical shape. And the surprises that result are so very pleasing. Before I introduce you to his latest creation, I would go back a few years to praise one from the past:

Charlie is the first-call trombonist in New Orleans, which means that he plays with a variety of bands — Tuba Skinny, the Shotgun Jazz Band, the Little Big Horns, his own Quality Six, and more. He’s come up to New York to be a featured guest with the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, where he played nobly and made everyone happy. But I think his heart beats fastest (without rushing, mind you) to a larger world-view than SOMEDAY SWEETHEART.

Charlie has immersed himself in that wonderful Venn diagram where New Orleans jazz meets the music of the Caribbean, as astute listeners could hear above. This brings listeners to places they’ve never been but where the music is — although the songs are new — deeply heartfelt and satisfying. When I first began to listen to CE BIGUINE, for example, I thought within a few minutes, “This is going to be one of my favorite discs, full of embracing surprises.” And it’s remained so. When I heard Charlie play some of the same music at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, I looked away from my camera to see the room swaying, the band playing. Smiles proliferated. And the room was gently sashaying in time.

Charlie’s new CD, THE ALCOA SESSIONS, is just extraordinary: not a simple plastic disc with good sounds embossed digitally into it, but a combination of a novel, a travelogue, a happy series of musical voyages to places that only exist in our ears and imaginations. Here’s the cover: doesn’t it make you feel like finding sandals and sunscreen? (It’s not even lunchtime as I write this, but a mojito dances before my eyes.)

But I hear you saying. “Alcoa. Isn’t that an antique brand of aluminum foil? What has all this got to do with music?” Patience. All will be revealed.

The Alcoa Sessions

Featuring

Charlie Halloran………Trombone

Tomas Majcherski……Tenor Sax

Jonathan Doyle….Tenor Sax. Clarinet.

Mike Davis…………Trumpet

with

Don Vappie, John Rodli and John Maestas………..Guitar

Tyler Thomson, Pete Olinciw……..Bass

Joe Lastie, Doug Garrison, Chris Davis……..Drums

Larry Sieberth, David Boeddinghaus…….Piano

Cesar Bacaro…..Percussion

Dédé St. Prix, Drew Gonsalves, Don Vappie………Vocals

Now, a pause for some enlivening musical evidence:

Trombonist Charlie Halloran’s fifth album, and first on the ArtistShare label, imagines the musical experience aboard cruises run by the Alcoa Steamship Co. out of New Orleans from 1949-1959. Pulling from dance band repertoire of Mid Century New Orleans, Trinidad, Venezuela and Guadeloupe, the Alcoa Sessions presents a band in the style of Paul Barbarin or Dave Bartholomew, augmented by Cuban percussion, French Creole and calypso vocals, fully leaning into the Crescent City’s placement as the northernmost city in the Caribbean.

Don Vappie leads the band through “When I Was a Little Child,” a swinging creole number from the Paul Barbarin / John Bruinous band, followed by the appropriately titled “Everybody’s Wailin’,” originally recorded by Huey Piano Smith.

By now the cruise has left the Mississippi River and we begin to explore ports further south. Considered Venezuela’s unofficial national anthem, “Alma Llanera” is given a Trinidadian dance band treatment ala Johnny Gomez. The moody and exotic “Margarita Rosa” comes from the Fitz Vaughan Bryan Orchestra, another dance band working in Port of Spain throughout the 1950s.

Back on the boat now, Halloran provides the vocals for the old jazz standard, “I Used To Love (But It’s All Over)”. 1950s New Orleans saw the explosion of seminal Rock and Roll and R&B recordings, so surely a New Orleans dance band of the era would be ready to let rip on a tune such as Dave Bartholomew’s “Twins” featuring fine trumpet work here from Mike Davis.

Lionel Belasco was a prolific composer working in Barbardos, Trinidad, Venezuela and New York City through the 1960s. His composition “Miranda” is a Venezuelan waltz and provides the perfect outlet for practicing some Arthur Murray dance steps, whose classes were often taught on these cruises. But don’t get too comfortable in 3/4, as Martinique’s Dédé St. Prix is up next to lead the band through “Moune a ou, ce moune a ou,” a brisk biguine from the French Caribbean, featuring the interplay between the trombone and reeds, particularly Tomas Majcherski’s tenor, giving the trumpet player a moment to grab a drink. 

Jonathan Doyle steps to the front on the raucous, “Feeling Good”, harkening to Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen and the screaming tenor sax driven R&B of the 1950s. Trinidadian/Canadian singer Drew Gonsalves of the band Kobotown joins the band for a humorous calypso from Lord Funny, featuring Gonsalves’ infectious rhythm and cadence.

The band swings out the last two numbers, first with the uptempo “Goodnight” written by Pat Castagne for the sign-off music for Radio Trinidad, and finally the dreamy tropical standard, “Song of the Islands.”

The “Alcoa Sessions” mines wonderful, under the radar repertoire, all of it danceable and from the era when calypso, biguine, R&B, and traditional New Orleans Jazz were exploding and intermingling, alongside the tiki craze, mambo and tropicalia. The Alcoa Steamship company used music imagery and language in their ads and brochures, and Halloran’s “The Alcoa Sessions” is sure to melt the ice in your drink and have you packing your suitcase for a TWA plane bound for warmer climes this winter.

Excited? I certainly was. You can check in here to hear a sample, purchase a download or a disc. Echoes of calypso, early rhythm and blues, and delicious old-school NOLA music. I’ve heard the music and am delighted. You will be, too.

I’ll let Charlie have the last word(s):

I like to imagine a young band aboard the Alcoa steamships, comfortable playing traditional jazz and New Orleans R&B, but incorporating local musicians while in port, blending calypso, beguine, and mazurkas, with their New Orleans sensibilities. This album will feature the sounds likely heard on a 13 day excursion from New Orleans through the Caribbean on the Alcoa Clipper, Corsair, and Cavalier.

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!

ONDATRA ZIBETHICUS, ON THE LOOSE IN SOHO: JON-ERIK KELLSO, HARVEY TIBBS, MATT MUNISTERI, NEAL MINER at The Ear Out (November 3, 2021)

I had to choose: if I’d called this post A WANDERING RODENT, that would have given the wrong idea. And this photograph might not have helped, except as an advertisement for better dental hygiene:

But it’s only my comedic way of introducing a glorious performance of MUSKRAT RAMBLE by the EarRegulars at the end of their 2021 summer season at The Ear Out. The naturalists whose music charms us so are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Neal Miner, string bass — taking this venerable composition at the proper rambling tempo:

Goodness, how they swing. What a gift to us. And to Louis, too.

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!

TURNING THE PAGES OF THE CALENDAR, SOULFULLY: SCOTT ROBINSON, CHRIS FLORY, PAT O’LEARY at The Ear Out, August 28, 2021.

Today is January 1, 2022, one of those dates that have a good deal of joyous ceremony (and hope) attached to it. Although some may say, “it’s just another day!” I choose to celebrate the turning of this page with optimism. And I offer beauty in the service of that feeling: Scott Robinson, playing a ballad — dedicated to his mother, who was a Doris Day fan — outdoors on August 28, 2021, with friends Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

These creators, and the sounds they make, move us and bless us. Let joy guide us into 2022 and the years to come.

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!

REASONS TO BE JOYOUS: RAY SKJELBRED and HIS CUBS at ROSSMOOR (KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, KATIE CAVERA, JEFF HAMILTON: JULY 10, 2014)

Let joy be unconfined. It certainly had free room at this July 10, 2014 concert put on by the Dixieland Jazz Club at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California. The source of the joy? Ray Skjelbred, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet and vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar and vocal; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

I always want to celebrate Ray, someone who keeps finding new paths to embody deep truths about life and art and the spirit, but today I post this jubilant video to say WOW in the name of two celebrations — you might know about them or not. Clint Baker has come back from a serious cardiac incident and is recovering well. If it wouldn’t hurt or embarrass him, a line of people would be at his door wanting to embrace him and to thank him for hanging around. And the quietly brilliant Kim Cusack, admired and loved for a million reasons, is celebrating a birthday. It would be indecent to ask him what the relevant number is, and an irrelevancy: he’s here on the planet and we rejoice in that fact.

And we rejoice in this music.

The news might be dark and the skies cloudy, but anytime we can hear the Cubs — ideally, in person, but also on lit screens and through speakers — it is a glorious day. We know them, we love them.

May your happiness increase!

JOHN’S GOT RHYTHM (1959)

A note from the CEO: I’m writing this thirty minutes into December 27, the end of an extended period of Judeo-Christian holidaying, and a Monday return to work. I send this swing out to you who might be feeling a thud as a return to the mundane happens . . .

John Lewis is known to many as the musical center of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and we might think of four handsome, austerely solemn men in tuxedos . . . improvising sedately on near-classical themes. But John himself was a delightfully swinging pianist — hear his work with Lester Young and this irresistible, warm improvisation on I GOT RHYTHM, which he called DELAUNAY’S DILEMMA for Charles Delaunay.

This performance comes from a May 8, 1959 trio session where John is buoyed by George Duvivier, string bass, and Connie Kay, drums. I hear Kansas City and Count Basie in John’s bell-like swinging minimalism:

Timeless. And all in good time.

May your happiness increase!

STOMP FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE FROM GORDON AU and THE GRAND STREET STOMPERS (GORDON AU, JOSH HOLCOMB, MATT KOZA, NICK RUSSO, ROB ADKINS, SHANE DEL ROBLES, TAMAR KORN, MOLLY RYAN) at CHELSEA TABLE and STAGE, December 3, 2021.

Appropriate to the season, here are three more holiday-wintry favorites, performed by Tamar Korn, Molly Ryan, voice and drama; 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. Tamar, Molly, and the Grand Street Stompers had their HOLIDAY STOMP at the new venue, Chelsea Table and Stage, on 26th Street in Manhattan, New York City, December 3, 2021. These performances were recorded by Chelsea Table and Stage and are presented here with thanks.

Here’s a song that has wistful resonance, not just for December 25:

Who’s that man kissing Mommy? Why, it’s Kris Kringle as Shorty George:

and the other side of Mr. Claus . . . that scary phenomenon, in honor of Louis Armstrong, the truest giver of gifts:

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!

SLOWLY, WITH PASSION: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, December 14, 2021)

Going slowly can be a true art, enabling musicians who understand to get behind the song and let light shine through, also. The four people in these two performances are masters of those subtle arts: Gabrielle Stravelli, voice; Dan Block, reeds; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass. They don’t double the tempo; Gabrielle doesn’t reduce the beautiful lyrics to scat-rubble. What emerges, bar by bar, is magic.

First, the Hoagy Carmichael – Johnny Mercer SKYLARK, translucent, tender, intense:

Mercer again, this time with Victor Schertzinger, for I REMEMBER YOU, with the brief but touching verse:

Like bird-flight, sweetly memorable.

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!

JARED ENGEL’S EXPANSIVE IMAGINATION (October 30, 2021)

Today, Facebook tells me, is Jared Engel’s birthday. As Milt Hinton used to say, “I have shoes older than you,” meaning that Jared is an inspiring Youngblood who has decades to go, bringing joy through music. He did just that about six weeks ago (I’ve already posted music from this concert, but here’s more).

It was a wonderful concert by Jared, string bass, composer, arranger; Vanisha-Arleen Gould, vocal; Gordon Au. trumpet; Sam Chess, trombone; Jonathan Beshay, reeds; Josh Dunn, guitar; Andrew Millar, drums — held in the Flamboyan Theatre of the Soto Cultural Center, Essex Street, New York City, on October 30, 2021, under the aegis of the City Artist Corps Program, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Here are four more selections, showing Jared’s and the band’s wide-ranging approach to sharing music, creating pleasure, creating thought.

Featuring Sam Chess, RED WING (or THE UNION MAID):

A gorgeous version of WARM VALLEY, a showcase for Jared:

LIMEHOUSE BLUES, showing off Jonathan Beshay:

and finally, a song that could be the concert’s theme, HYMN TO FREEDOM:

Happy birthday, Mr. Jared, Sir. We salute you and your friends (there’s more from this concert to come) and we are happy to share the planet with you.

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!