Fortunately, the wooden benches were sturdy and solidly attached.
Here is the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street (thanks to Janet Sora Chung). They are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal, co-leader; Colin Hancock, drums, vocal, co-leader; Ricky Alexander, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Sam Chess, trombone; Andy Schumm, piano; Vince Giordano, banjo; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone.
Hot enough for you?
The Gershwins’ DO DO DO (vocal, Mike Davis):
Sweetly durable: MY MELANCHOLY BABY:
A rousing ALABAMMY BOUND — another of the memorable songs about going South (Andy Schumm, arrangement):
THE WHISPER SONG (getting pastoral, with Mike Davis, vocal and vocal effects; Colin Hancock, whistling):
BUDDY’S HABITS (fashioned after the Red Nichols version):
Appropriately joyous, Mr. Morton’s MILENBERG JOYS:
In honor of the Sunshine Boys, Joe and Dan Mooney, here are Mike Davis and Ricky Alexander negotiating their way through WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, which Sam Chess bowing low to Tommy Dorsey:
And finally, for this post — Cave canem — a growly low MEAN DOG BLUES, courtesy of Red Nichols and friends:
“What fun!” as Liadain O’Donovan says. More goodness on the way.
The music may not go ’round and ’round, but at the moment my collection certainly extends itself from room to room. Because I can envision myself moving house, as the Brits say, I have been slightly more energetic in my tidying, although Marie Kondo would have walked away in despair a long time ago (Marie: what happens if so many things “spark joy”? Hmmmm?)
A few days ago I noticed three cassette boxes that have been on a bedroom windowsill for some time. One was empty and unlabeled; another was Frank O’Connor reading “My Oedipus Complex,” a souvenir of a past life, and the third, mildly waterlogged and soiled, but with its tape safely inside, was this:
I recognized it as a gift from the late Joe Boughton, which, since Joe left us in 2010, already made it an artifact. Joe was a concert and jazz-party impresario (“Jazz at Chautauqua” among other delights), a record producer, but most often he was a collector and enthusiast who brought a tape recorder to many gigs and traded tapes of his favorites. Our tastes ran in the same directions, and when I had obtained something I knew he would like, I would send him a cassette of it, and he would send me one of his homemade anthologies. (We never called them “mixtapes,” but each of us had cars with cassette decks.)
I didn’t know if the tape would play, but it did, and I can share with you the most remarkable portions . . . saved from the recycling bag that holds disposable plastics.
First, four performances captured on home-recorded acetates, radio broadcasts of Ed Hall’s Sextet from the Savoy Cafe, Boston, WMEX, Nat Hentoff, m.c. May-June 1949: Hall, clarinet; Ruby Braff, cornet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Kenny Kersey, piano; John Field, string bass; Jimmy Crawford, drums. CHINA BOY / MORE THAN YOU KNOW (glorious Vic) / S’WONDERFUL into program closing / THE MAN I LOVE //
And a mysterious bonus, mysterious because Joe didn’t type in any data about it, BACK HOME IN INDIANA, by (audibly) Max Kaminsky, trumpet; Vernon Brown, trombone; others not known. My friend Sonny McGown, a fine listener and collector himself, wrote in quickly, “The version of Indiana sounded familiar to me and I recognized the clarinetist as Ernie Caceres. The recording is from an Eddie Condon Associated transcription session of 24 October 1944. Others listed for this particular tune on the session date are Kaminsky, Lou McGarity, Jess Stacy, Condon, Bob Haggart, and George Wettling. What a band!”
Then, Ralph Sutton at Sunnie’s Rendezvous in Aspen, Colorado, 1960s, playing Willard RobIson’s I HEARD A MOCKINGBIRD SINGING IN CALIFORNIA.
Thank you, gorgeous improvisers, and thank you, Joe, for sharing the music with me . . . so that more than a dozen years later, I can share it with you.
We need good news, so here’s something that will gladden the hearts of listeners who like barrelhouse originality: Andy Schumm, so wonderful on all his instruments, will be releasing his first solo piano CD (on Rivermont Records) later this year.
Here is Andy’s riotous piano feature — I call his style Elegant Savagery — at the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street, New York City (thanks to Janet Sora Chung).
Andy is a spectacular pianist, and what I mean by “Elegant Savagery” has something to do with the confidence and energy with which he approaches the keyboard. His power, his range, his fearlessness. (Some pianists are timid, as if they were anxious: press the keys down too firmly, someone will notice and they will lose the gig.) He is a swashbuckler, a Douglas Fairbanks of the Steinway or perhaps Yamaha. But he does not pound. His aim is beautiful. He knows where he is going, so notes and runs are clear, ringing, not smudged or vague. And he’s improvising: there’s music on the piano in the photograph, but he’s on his own path in the video.
The heat he generates is awe-inspiring; he is orchestral in the best way. And he does the neat trick the greatest artists do: he has heard and absorbed everyone, from Joplin to Confrey to Melrose, Schutt, Seger Ellis, Cassino Simpson, and Alex Hill and beyond, Morton and the stride gang — ferociously precise barrelhouse like a Mack truck on a steep downhill incline (although his tempo is admirably steady) — but he sounds like himself.
Can you tell that I admire his approach and what he creates? Listen.
I can’t wait until the CD (with notes by Andy, in both senses) appears, but in the meantime I will admire his playing whenever I can. (You know, of course, that he is a splendid cornet, clarinet, saxophone, and drum wizard as well . . . )
Thank you for being, Maestro, and for so generously sharing your selves with us.
LESTER’S BLUES is a septet (often with guests) based in Gent, Belgium, and they swing like mad.
In instrumentation, they resemble the Reno Club band and they have much of the same free-wheeling joyous spirit. Basie always started with the saxophone section, so I will also: Tom Callens, tenor, alto, vocal; David Lukacs, clarinet, tenor; Hans Bossuyt, trumpet; Luk Vermeir, piano; Victor Da Costa, guitar; Sam Gersmans, string bass; Frederik Van den Berghe, drums; guests Dree Peremans, trombone; Monique ‘Mo’ Harcum, vocal.
I found their first album so delightful that I did everything but hug the disc. I distrust hyperbole, but called it “a triumph” here. Visit that post, by the way, and you can savor some delightful video evidence. Just be sure that the Depression glass is not too close to the edge of the shelf, because your castle will be rocking.
One of the pleasures of this band is that their repertoire is intelligently spacious. “Basie tributes” often fall back on familiar lines on I GOT RHYTHM, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, the blues, and a few ballads . . . but JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE has been picked clean, and many forget that the Basie band was also playing IF I DIDN’T CARE, THE YOU AND ME THAT USED TO BE, and originals like TAXI WAR DANCE, inspirations that LESTER’S BLUES follows. They remember that Lester loved the music he heard on the radio.
Enough with the words, as they say. Some music!
Thinking about the blues idiom and Bessie — in a performance that, to me, imagines a Basie-Bessie performance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 (think FROM SPIRITUALS TO SWING). Totally evocative without raising its voice:
and the expertly frolicsome GEORGIA JUBILEE, credited to Arthur Schutt and a young man from Chicago named Benny:
Several things leap out at me: not only the immense subtlety of the soloists, but the wonderful mix of exactitude and freedom in the ensembles. And the sound! Delicious and warm, never clinical.
In addition to these two performances, the new disc, RADIO RHYTHM, offers LITTLE WHITE LIES, WHEN THE SUN SETS DOWN SOUTH, MOTEN’S SWING, ROLL ‘EM, CLIMAX RAG, I LEFT MY BABY, THAT’S ALL, and the title tune for a total of ten performances both leisurely and compact. The band is comfortably “modern,” in its grooving, but no one needs six choruses to get rolling. Readers with memories will notice associations with Jelly Roll and Mary Lou, Smack, Bechet, and Mister Five by Five in addition to Basie and Lester in a variety of periods.
And what this recording and this band remind me, with gentleness and integrity, is that classic jazz is an unbroken continuum over the last century-plus, with our heroes in contemporary times offering love to the past, while the past says, “Go on and be yourselves! We did it, and that’s why you admire us so.”
I offer as testimony to the greatness of this orchestra and of this session my chunk of enthusiastic prose — but don’t quail, it’s only a little more than six hundred words. Or you can skip to the end and purchase the music.
There are two ways to approach the Past. One is to handle it tenderly as fragile relic, ready to dissolve into dust. Thus, bands play CHANT OF THE WEED from manuscript paper, aiming to sound like a 1933 Don Redman 78 rpm record. Expertly done, it sends shivers down the spine. But for others it is like a parlor trick, an impressionist pretending to be someone else. The other approach acknowledges that our heroes were innovative, horrified at the idea of being “a repeater pencil.” LESTER’S BLUES knows the originals by heart and has taken them to heart, but they are a band with spice. They have a glorious wildness at their center of their deep love of classic jazz. They are respectful of the original arrangements – they do not destroy the cathedral to put up a shopping mall — but within the arrangements they go their own idiosyncratic joyous ways. They create devoted homages to the recorded past, but those prayers to Bluebird Records and the Famous Door are springboards for creativity, not ankle bracelets to keep living artists restricted to older conventions. And what I hear is exultant, even when melancholy andslow.
The musicians have a common love of swing. Sadly, manycontemporary players and singers keep “the pocket” or “the groove” at arm’s length, as if swing is Grandpa’s pocket watch and fob in the era of the iPhone. How sad. On the rock of this rhythm section this band could build a new swinging city on a hill. And the soloists! Bless them for their strong personalities, rooted yet playful, and celebrate them for how well they meld into vivid unity. And bless the light-hearted and sublimely effective arrangements, at once roadmaps and wind in the trees.
Each performance has its own singularity. I won’t praise the soloists, nor will I anatomize each performance or tell the history of each song – that’s your delightful homework – but these ten performances fill the room with light and joy. And more: each track is at once music and beyond music: one is a Turner landscape, another a Jacob Lawrence, a Calder, a Kandinsky.
None of this is by accident. Tom Callens told me, “We have a total of ten tracks which were chosen out of a bigger pool of songs. We chose these for their freshness, special arrangements, strong melodies, less popularly known (except ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out’ of course), or just because we have an emotional attachment to them. That’s why it’s not a concept or tribute album. It’s just us trying to play really well, having a new repertoire, a cohesive and rhythmic sound, and enjoying the ride. We recorded at the same place as earlier and this time did it using one stereo ribbon mic (in blumlein configuration), positioning ourselves around it and adjusting our positions to mix the individual volume levels. The L-R signal was fed through a state of the art dual tube microphone preamp and sent straight to two-track tape. Tracks were recorded in one go (one-takes) so there’s no editing involved.”
Just like the old days, but brand-new. Passion and exactitude; personal freedom within defined frameworks, power and airy lightness (like Jimmy Rushing on the dance floor). And it all fuses in the nicest communal way. LESTER’S BLUES feels like “a band,” spiritually: a happy group united for a communal purpose. I imagine them getting together for a celebratory meal after the session, laughing and enjoying what they have created. I am sure that Pres, Basie, Jo, Benny, Bessie, Jelly Roll, Mister Five by Five, and Charlie (Christian and Parker) are grinning their faces off. You will be, too.
Yes, music for dancers, but also music for people who pat their foot and grin while seated in front of their computer and speakers. Music for people who understand joy, recognize it, and avidly choose it.
You can find both their albums (or downloads) here.
Jazz doesn’t often end up in church (or similar religious institutions) which is a pity, because its creativity shouts hosannas to the universe, and in secular terms, it praises the great glory of being alive in this cosmos. A great solo or ensemble or beautifully-turned phrase is not “like” a prayer; it is a prayer. And the most rewarding improvisations are authentic and thus to be revered. So it was so rich an experience when a great jazz orchestra romped, shouted, whispered, and exulted in a lovely New York City church (built in 1821) last night.
Here’s one side of the septet:
and the other:
and a much better shot by my friend since 1972, the esteemed Rob Rothberg:
It was the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street (thanks to Janet Sora Chung). They are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal, co-leader; Colin Hancock, drums, vocal, co-leader; Ricky Alexander, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Sam Chess, trombone; Andy Schumm, piano; Vince Giordano, banjo; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone.
And they rocked the room. Here are their first half-dozen selections.
I NEED LOVIN’ (vocal by Mike):
CORNFED (for Red and Miff):
ARE YOU SORRY? (you know the answer is NO):
Fats’ MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS (vocal by Mike):
and HONOLULU BLUES:
There will be three more blogposts delineating the joys of this evening. Fervent thanks go to Janet Sora Chung and to the gentlemen of the ensemble.
I know this group would like opportunities to play for the widest variety of audiences, and their book is huge (and, as you can hear, varied). Promoters, producers, club-owners, concert organizers out there?
I first encountered Nancy Harrow as a wondrous singer, an individualist deeply immersed in the blues: someone with feeling and spirit but entirely lacking in affectation. (That her early fans included Buck Clayton, John Lewis, and Roland Hanna did not escape me.)
When I had the opportunity to hear Nancy in person, those impressions were only reinforced. But by that time, I had learned that she was also songwriter, lyricist, dramatist — someone for whom the word “theatrical” would be the highest praise.
Just before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to see ABOUT LOVE, a musical play with songs, inspired by Turgenev’s story, songs by Nancy, script and direction by Will Pomerantz, and I was bewitched, as I wrote here. I remember very clearly the subtlety of the acting, the way that music, dance, and words blended; the way that the plot seemed new because of the electricity onstage. Even the pandemic has not blurred my memories of that evening.
Now, ABOUT LOVE is back — joined in repertory by a new adaptation of Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS, again with music by Nancy and direction by Will. Here is one of Nancy’s songs that you will hear:
And here are more facts:
Chekhov + Turgenev is two Russian classics presented in repertory, and underscored in jazz: About Love, a musical play with songs, inspired by Ivan Turgenev’s novella, “First Love”; and Three Sisters, a new adaptation of the play by Anton Chekhov. is now playing a limited engagement, in repertory, through June 5 at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC) in The Frank Shiner Theater. The official opening for both production is Thursday, May 19. Tickets are available online at SheenCenter.org, by phone at 212-925-2812, or in-person at The Sheen Center box office Monday to Friday noon to 5PM and one hour before performances. Tickets are $39 – $69. Premium seating is available. Rush tickets will be available at the box office an hour before any performance for $20.
The company of Chekhov + Turgenev features John Ahlin, Silvia Bond, Essence Brown, Nathan Hinton, Miles G. Jackson, Nehal Joshi, Amanda Nichols, Tom Patterson, Elizabeth Ramos, Tommy Schrider, Jean Tafler, Pilar Witherspoon and more to be announced.
Chekhov + Turgenev features a live jazz quartet nightly: music director Misha Josephs on guitar, Frederika Krier on violin, Jared Engel on bass, and Steve Picataggio on drums.
There they are, in all their hot pastoral glory: the New York Classic Seven, co-led by Colin Hancock, drums; Mike Davis, trumpet and vocal; with Andy Schumm, piano; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Josh Dunn, banjo and guitar; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and alto saxophone. Their concert — two days ago, Sunday, May 15, 2022 — was made possible by the Tri-State Jazz Society(thanks to Bill Hoffman, as always, for his efficient kindnesses). I am told that the whole concert was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, but I wanted to bring my camera and gear there myself, so that the OAO and I could enjoy it hot. As we did.
When an interviewer asked Jelly Roll Morton, late in Jelly’s life, about jazz “styles,” and unrolled a list of them, Jelly was derisive, “Hell, it’s all Jelly Roll style!” Here are two jubilant examples to prove his point: hot music performances of the highest order.
MILENBERG (or MILNEBERG) JOYS:
Joys for sure. Colin told us that this version owed something to the recordings of New Orleans cornetist Johnny DeDroit — wait for the extended ending.
And the closing number of the concert, GOOD OLD NEW YORK (“Knife and fork / bottle and a cork / That’s the way you spell ‘New York’ are some words from the lyrics — true today):
Reiterating the obvious. These are extraordinarily gifted musicians who make music that others say is dead cavort joyously. And although we treasure our Morton Victors in any form, living musicians playing music in real time and space are an immense gift, and such a gift needs to be nurtured. Support jazz societies; make donations if you can’t or won’t be there in person; buy musicians’ CDs; go to concerts and gigs.
Jazz surely is nowhere near dead, but every time an audience member turns away, it gets closer to the morgue.
I could call this post OUTSTANDING IN THEIR FIELD, but that would be wrong.
There they are, in all their hot pastoral glory: the New York Classic Seven, co-led by Colin Hancock, drums; Mike Davis, trumpet and vocal; with Andy Schumm, piano; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Josh Dunn, banjo and guitar; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and alto saxophone. Their concert — yesterday, Sunday, May 15, 2022 — was made possible by the Tri-State Jazz Society(thanks to Bill Hoffman, as always, for his efficient kindnesses). I am told that the whole concert was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, but I wanted to bring my camera and gear there myself, so that the OAO and I could enjoy it hot. As we did.
Here’s a hot performance of Tiny Parham’s JUNGLE CRAWL, transcribed by Mike Davis — so authentic, so slippery-lovely. (You know, Dick Wellstood said that the best jazz had “grease and funk.” The white walls of the little hall still gleamed when the concert was over, but a kind of lively unfettered human vitality was in the air:
Someone sitting near me said, when this was all through, “That was awesome,” and I agree. There’s more to come. You can find the whole concert, live-streamed,here — for free, but people who are hep to the jive will find the donation box and toss some love to the Society and their musicians. It’s only right.
And just to reiterate: “Jazz is dead?” “Young people today have no knowledge of the jazz tradition before Coltrane?” Derisive noises from your occasionally-humble correspondent.
You know Beauty when it stops you in your tracks and says, “Sit still. Clear your mind. Something real is happening.” Beauty doesn’t have to be loud; it avoids capital letters; it seduces rather than commands. And in its presence, the heart and the ears open wide and stay that way, reveling in the rare world that has been created.
Pianist JinJoo Yoo had a gig at Birdland a little less than a month ago, with her trio and the bass clarinetist Stefano Doglioni. I wasn’t there because I was recuperating from an overseas trip. But JinJoo filled the air with the most delicate compelling lovely sounds. Thank the Deities for video-recording: here she is, performing Harry Warren’s WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A WALK? — complete with verse — as if reverent attention to melody, harmony, and subtle rhythmic motion was the most important thing in the world. Listen attentively and marvel at the sweet structures (and occasional surprises) she lays out for us: a completely fulfilling musical experience.
As delicious as a walk with someone you love, or in rewarding solitude. What magic!
These video performances (thanks to Simon Stribling, a brilliant trumpeter and alto saxophonist) have been on YouTube for perhaps fifteen years, but even I didn’t know of all of them, so I urge you to watch, enjoy, and marvel.
The band alongside Bob, cornet, is Neville Stribling, alto saxophone, clarinet, vocal; Ade Monsbourgh, tenor saxophone, clarinet, vocal; Graham Coyle, piano; Conrad Joyce, string bass; Peter Cleaver, guitar / banjo; Allan Browne, drums, washboard. Jazz royalty. And the repertoire has a distinct Louis flavor with one bow to the Rhythmakers and another to Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter: what could be wrong with that?
Astonishing lyrical hot playing, offered to us with the greatest casualness: the work of masters.
WHEN YOU’RE SMILING:
IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT (vocal, Neville):
OH, PETER (YOU’RE SO NICE)!:
MY BUDDY (for Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter):
I’M A DING DONG DADDY (FROM DUMAS):
I rarely make such claims, but if you can listen to this music without being uplifted, I would think we have little in common.
I am, for the moment, concluding my little series of loving homages to Bob Barnard. But he and his sound are never far from my ears and heart. And I — a retired academic — offer JAZZ LIVES’ readers the most pleasing homework: go and find more of his music, to start and end your days in joy.
Thanks also to John Scurry for his consistent support and his help with this post.
Thinking of mid-period blue-label Decca Louis for I’M SHOOTING HIGH, with John Sheridan, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2007, surreptitious audio only):
On a visit to New York in 2010, Bob sat in with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks (personnel given in the description) for a few songs:
SOMEBODY LOVES ME:
More Louis, appropriately, with SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:
and that hymn to staying at home, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:
I could go on praising, celebrating, and mourning Bob Barnard for quite some time, especially as wondrous new evidence comes up on YouTube, such as this informal delicious eruption by an international band of heroes. Thanks to Willem van Geest for capturing and sharing it; thanks to Bob, Joep Peeters, vibraphone; John Smith, soprano saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone; Robert Veen, clarinet; Mike Goetz, piano; John Rijnen, string bass; Onno de Bruin, drums; Sara Koolen, vocal. Good old-new-fashioned Swing-Mainstream, expert loving capers from all.
NAGASAKI / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE (Sara) / I FOUND A NEW BABY / Closing:
The music lives on, as do those who create it and share it from their generous souls.
In yesterday’s post celebrating the extraordinary person and musician Bob Barnard, I referred to his delightful penchant for songs no one else was playing or improvising on. I suggested it was a love of melodies, but I think also it was a way of avoiding routine, sweetly challenging himself and the others on the stand, so the musical special for this evening wouldn’t be ROYAL GARDEN BLUES or SATIN DOLL, although he played them with ingenuity and fervor.
I wish I had had my recording equipment at Jazz at Chautauqua when Bob played A BROWN SLOUCH HAT, the patriotic Australian song from 1942 that I suspect few, if any in the audience had heard or heard of. But I was properly equipped in 2007 (although secretly) when he called this tune, from PINOCCHIO, by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, sung by Cliff Edwards as “Jiminy Cricket”:
So to celebrate Bob properly, as a bright beacon of joy, I offer this audio-only performance from the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. The other soloists are Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums. Performed on Friday, September 14, 2007 and recorded surreptitiously, of course:
Wikipedia, where almost-cooked facts are arranged for our pleasure, tells me today that Bob Barnard, “an Australian trumpet and cornet player,” born November 24, 1933, died yesterday, May 7, 2022. I heard the news yesterday from the very fine friend of the music John Trudinger. My first reaction was double: I felt as if I’d been pierced right through my chest, but at the same time I heard a great golden sound, that of Bob’s glowing horn. And I thought of what Bobby Hackett had said of Louis Armstrong’s “death,” that Louis was alive as long as we could hear him.
I was fortunate to see and hear and even chat with Bob on his visits to New York and to Jazz at Chautauqua, which is why I start with his rare character. He had his own center, a sweet equanimity. He was ready to find the world both welcoming and amusing, and although I never heard him tell a joke (or be mean at someone’s expense), he always looked as if he was ready to start laughing — of course, not when the horn was at his lips, when he was completely serious. I think of him with a gentle amiability, head slightly cocked at the latest absurdity but ready to make everything right through music.
Along with that ease in the world, and perhaps its foundation, was a lovely mature courage. When he led groups at Chautauqua and elsewhere — musicians who didn’t usually play together or who (let me whisper this) always know more obscure repertoire, he was beautifully unflappable. He called tunes that he knew everyone would enjoy, but when he announced BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS or GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE I could see the faintest looks of “What the hell is this? How does the bridge go?” among the very experienced musicians on the stand. Bob called a medium tempo and started playing the melody . . . wordlessly teaching by example, “THIS is how it goes. Follow me and I won’t let you get lost.” And no one did.
I hope that my readers know what an unforgiving instrument the trumpet (or cornet) is, how demanding . . . and if they don’t know, they pick one up sometime and attempt a clear tone, held notes, the barest semblance of agility.
Bob is — not was — an absolutely spectacular brass virtuoso. But one with deep-seated taste and grace. He came out of Louis and Bix, but with a keen sense of their songful lyricism: the only one who approached his mastery in this is Connie Jones. He was also fearlessly agile all over the range of the horn. I think of Bob’s limber, audaciously sweet playing as skywriting or acrobatics on the highest diving board.
Here’s a sample from Bob’s visit to The Ear Inn, September 26, 2010, with Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass:
and also in sweetly Louis-inspired mode, performances with John Sheridan, piano; Arnie Kinsella, drums, at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 16, 2010.
I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA (from High Society):
LYIN’ TO MYSELF (from the glorious Deccas):
and, finally, THE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET. Originally I thought that bringing this performance forward to mark Bob’s moving on would seem a failure of taste, but I think he would laugh at the juxtaposition, never one to take himself too seriously:
And a beautiful interlude from Bob’s last recording session, JUST MY LUCK, with guitarist Ian Date in March 2016:
Bob made his first recordings in 1949, and readers who know him will have their own favorites. But you can hear his style, his joy, his lyrical exuberance in these performances. And if you knew him, even glancingly, as I did, you hear the friendly singular man, in love with melodies, in every note.
Vic Dickenson spent most of 1945-47 in California and recorded prolifically with a wide variety of bands — appearing memorably alongside Louis, Hawkins, Leo Watson — as well as playing on JUBILEE broadcasts. And he had the opportunity to record as a leader for I think the first time, for the rather under-publicized SUPREME label, in late 1947. (The impending record ban may have made this even more of an opportunity.) From what I saw of Vic in person, later in life, he was perfectly happy to be a sideman, although he was asked to lead in the recording studio often in the last three decades of his life.
I stumbled across this YouTube posting of one of the SUPREME sides and noted with dismay that only 33 people had viewed it, the other side had 17 views. This post is my small effort to raise those numbers for the greater glory of Vic.
The band is not what some might expect from Vic — much more 1947 bop than loose improvising — but he stands out beautifully among the more “modern” Californians: Jack Trainor, trumpet; Jewell Grant, alto saxophone; J.D. King, tenor saxophone; Skip Johnson, piano, arranger; Billy Hadnott, string bass; Chico Hamilton, drums. Yes, ST. LOUIS BLUES begins with Vic playing Louis’ WEST END BLUES cadenza, slightly truncated (I heard him play it all, gorgeously, a number of times in performance) and his later solo is still rooted in his own version of 1928 Louis. And his winning vocal!
and a song Vic made his own many times, YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU. Here, much of the record is given over to the band (Vic was never one to demand the spotlight) and they have their own take on the Eddie Heywood arrangement Vic had recorded a year earlier:
To me, Vic is a hero of sound among heroes, someone consistently underrated — but not by people like Roswell Rudd, who was most eloquent in his praise:
Vic Dickenson. You know it right away from the sound. Every note that he plays. He’s got so much personality. This is something you find in theolder players, that every note they play is imbued with their own character. I guess it breaks down to where nowadays it’s hard to separate people by the particular personality that they have in their sound. But back in the days when there were fewer people doing this, there was more identifiable individuality. But now so many more people are doing this that it becomes harder and harder to identify the individuals. But they’re still there! I’m telling you. And especially on this instrument, which is all about imbuing the sound with your own personality so that you can be identified just from the sound of a few notes that you play. . . . You know who he is right away. I don’t know whether it’s because I was there or I grew up on it. But these sounds are so distinctive, these voices. Vic Dickenson liberated the trombone into linear improvisation the same way Jack Teagarden did, and this was a heroic thing.
from a 2001 “Blindfold Test” conducted for Down Beat by Ted Panken, reprinted from Ted’s blog, TODAY IS THE QUESTION.
The song is CHINA BOY and I believe the next words of the chorus are GO SLEEP, but you couldn’t find a finer example of being brilliantly awake than this performance.
These five musicians are billed as RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS, with Ray at the piano, the occasional vocal, arrangements and spiritual-ethical leadership; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums. (Study Hamilton’s melodic accompaniment and solo!)
This performance comes from the Sacramento Music Festival (although I may have the rapidly-changing name wrong) in a delightfully compact room on May 24, 2014:
That is compelling evidence of the magnificence of this little band: hot and delicate all at once, plunging forward with the greatest relaxation. I hope our paths intersect before too long.
In 2014, I had the serious luxury of encountering Ray in a variety of settings at a number of festivals and gigs: I look back on those days and those sounds with wonder — both that they occurred and that I was able to witness them and capture them.
While I was sauntering through my archive of unreleased performances by Ray and friends, I found something unusual — although not unusual for those of us who honor and follow him, those of us who have seen him at jazz festivals, moving from one venue to another, becoming friends with each new piano, taking its pulse by playing it, meditatively yet with strong emotions. During the Jazz Fest by the Bay in Monterey, I knew his meditative ways well enough to turn my camera on him before he became part of the ensemble — Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band, in red polo shirts. And I was rewarded.
Ray told me, “The piano interlude is sort of what I like to do as I adjust to a new piano and setting.” I’ve heard him explore rare Ellington, a Monk blues, Thirties pop songs, and more. I hear the laandmarks of a characteristic blues strain and Bud Freeman’s AFTER AWHILE.
But the interlude so strongly made me think of someone who probably spent no time at the keyboard and who died long before Jess Stacy was born . . . I mean Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote in SELF-RELIANCE, the source of these lines: “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.“
Yes, perfect sweetness, mixed with Chicago grit and California musing. Thank you, Cubs. Thank you, Ray.
“On the night in question,” as they say on police procedural television shows, Jen Hodge, string bass, and Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar:
I recently uncovered much more music from this night — before the world went into its nightmarish nap — and hope to share it with you. What wonders were created! And, fortunately for us, the four heroes are alive and well and playing / singing beautifully today.
Thirty years ago and more, in a used record store, I found this disc. I was so provincial that the names on the front and back covers did not mean anything to me, but the premise of the disc fascinated me and I bought it.
That premise was splendidly unusual: to take modern jazz classics, score them for a jazz orchestra in consciously anachronistic styles — not jamming, although there were hot solos in abundance — but “styles” that were precise and expert . . . let us say, ANTHROPOLOGY as the 1925 Fletcher Henderson band would have played it, or a Monk composition as played by the Red Hot Peppers.
I had seen a number of examples of this time-travel created in the Fifties (including Phil Sunkel, Dave McKenna, and Bob Wilber) where bands took, for instance, MUSKRAT RAMBLE and scored it in “cool” or “modern” style. But the Anachronics went both forwards and backwards in the most expert and hilarious style: dazzling deft syncopated fun.
They were a working band from 1976-79 and had a reunion in 2013. Fortunately for us, many of their recordings have been collected on three CDs — a two-disc set of their 1976-79 recordings, below —
and their reunion, BACK IN TOWN, which I reviewed here.
This spring, a friend sent me a video of their forty-minute set at the Nice Jazz Festival in July 1977. Excerpts from this performance have been shared on YouTube for more than a decade, but this copy is clear and complete.
And joyous. And wise. Only musicians who not only know the whole continuum of jazz and can play it superbly could make this happen.
So I present it to you: even if you have seen it before, you will find it uplifting. Think of a clarinet trio on BERNIE’S TUNE, or Louis playing ASK ME NOW in his 1933 Victor style, or YARDBIRD SUITE as a thrilling showcase for clarinet and recorder, JORDU reimagined as early Ellington with a tuba solo and echoes of Cecil Scott, ANTHROPOLOGY played as if by a superbly free Morton group, BLUE MONK with a tango interlude, I HOPE GABRIEL LIKES MY MUSIC as if Louis had stopped by in Camden, New Jersey, for the final Moten session.
And once you have admired the whole delightful conception, the just-right ensemble work and the glowing horn soloists, step back and admire the heartbeat pulse of the band, that rhythm section. I find it difficult to restrict my enthusiasm . . . and you will feel, hear, and see why.
ANACHRONIC JAZZ BAND (La grande parade du jazz, Nice, July 16, 1977): Patrick Artero, trumpet, arrangements; Daniel Barda, trombone; Marc Richard, clarinet, arrangements; André Villeger, tenor saxophone, arrangements; Daniel Huck, vocal, clarinet, alto saxophone; Philippe Baudoin, piano, arrangements; Gérard Gervois, brass bass; Patrick Diaz, banjo; Bernard Laye, drums. Göran Eriksson, recorder added on YARDBIRD SUITE and GABRIEL.
‘ROUND MIDNIGHT (Huck, vocal) / BERNIE’S TUNE / ASK ME NOW / YARDBIRD SUITE / JORDU / ANTHROPOLOGY / BLUE MONK / I HOPE GABRIEL LIKES MY MUSIC (Huck, vocal).
What an extraordinary orchestra they are. Unforgettable. Thanks to Monsieurs Artero, Richard, Baudoin, and Jean-Francois Bonnel for making this post possible.
I haven’t done anything that would require an apology or what my friend Richard would call an act of contrition, but this lovely ballad, I APOLOGIZE, has taken up residence in my head. You can find emotional versions by Bing, many by Billy Eckstine, and other singers on YouTube, but this instrumental version feels like the ideal ballad performance: quiet but completely intense.
This performance by Claude Hopkins, piano; Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone; Joe Thomas, trumpet; Wendell Marshall, string bass; J.C. Heard, drums was recorded in 1961. My microgroove copy of this session goes back to the very early Seventies, when Prestige, Riverside, and Verve lps were being sold at very low prices, and it remains a treasure. In the Seventies as well, I saw (and sometimes spoke to) Claude, Joe, and Buddy, so I feel connected to their work.
It is very much a showpiece for the two horns, with the rhythm section discreetly supporting (Claude’s tremolos behind Buddy are a wonderful touch). Buddy’s approach to the melody is like the embrace of someone in a fur coat, delightfully enveloping both the notes and the listener; Joe’s sotto voce comments are perfect counterpoint, affirming and responding. I am sorry that Prestige did not consider a whole album of ballads for this team (they had a “Moodsville” series, presumably meant as a soundtrack for quiet intimacies) but this is memorable to me. And, I hope, to you:
Here is a piano potpourri from the 1975 Nice Jazz Festival, broadcast on French television in 1977. In reverse, we have the amazingly durable Sammy Price and Art Hodes approaching the blues in their own ways, the former creating Saturday-night dance music, the latter burrowing deep inside the form; Earl Hines wandering the cosmos in his astonishing fashion, improvising on a swing standard and two “pop tunes” as he had always done. For me, the crown goes to the less-heralded Johnny Guarnieri, swinging and striding irresistibly at a variety of tempos: I wish more people paid attention to his beautiful approaches to the idiom. Listen to his WILD ABOUT HARRY and the rest. But you’ll decide; there’s no final examination in this post.
Johnny Guarnieri: BYE BYE BLUES [mislabeled as WANG WANG BLUES] – I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY (solo) / S’POSIN’ (add Larry Ridley, string bass, Ray Mosca, drums) (7.22-23.75)
Earl Hines: CANADIAN SUNSET – LULLABY OF BIRDLAND – CLOSE TO YOU (Harley White, string bass; Eddie Graham, drums)
Art Hodes (7.27.75) THE MOOCHE
Johnny Guarnieri: THE SHEIK OF ARABY / (7.24.75) CAROLINA SHOUT
There was a time when live hot jazz came pouring out of the speaker of your AM radio. We’ve heard airshots by the big bands and Charlie Parker and his friends, but radio station WMEX in Boston, for a time, offered prime live music, often hosted by a then-young Nat Hentoff. Collectors recorded and saved these broadcasts, doing us a great service decades later. My copy of this music may have originated with Joe Boughton, who passed it on to John L. Fell.
Here’s a half-hour of lively music from the spring of 1951, a Sunday afternoon session, “Jazz at Storyville,” from George Wein’s club in that city. The players are Johnny Windhurst, cornet; Peanuts Hucko, clarinet, vocal; Dick Le Fave, trombone; Wein, piano; John Field, string bass; Marquis Foster, drums, later joined by Erwin Ferry, trombone, with Eddie Phyfe replacing Foster.
The repertoire is what you would hear at Eddie Condon’s club in New York, and that is no bad thing: INTRODUCTION / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / SQUEEZE ME (scat vocal Hucko) / STEALIN’ APPLES (Hucko, Wein, Field, Foster) / Eddie Phyfe, drums, replaces Foster; Erwin Perry, tenor saxophone added for EASTER PARADE / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / IMPROVISATION FOR THE MARCH OF TIME (or DEEP HARLEM) //
I’m most charmed by Hucko’s vocal, Windhurst’s electricity, and Wein in splendid form, but this half-hour stands as testimony to the durability of the common hot language, call the results what you will:
Seventy-one years old, but it doesn’t show its age.
It was the Sunday before Valentine’s Day . . . and properly, the OAO and I were at St. John’s in the Village on Eleventh Street to hear and capture another delightful recital by Yaala Ballin and Michael Kanan, two of my favorite song-explorers.
As is their playful habit, Yaala and Michael made their recital inclusive in the nicest ways. No, the audience was not invited to sing along, but they did shape the event by choosing the repertoire, on the spot and in advance. And wonders resulted.
Because of the holiday, love was the theme. But since the repertoire is not only celebratory, their were beautiful tributes to devotion, harder-edged rueful dialogues on love that got away as well as its glories. Here are six beauties, some as brief as one chorus, but how much music Yaala and Michael can create in thirty-two bars!
LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY:
I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART:
ALL TOO SOON:
FALLING IN LOVE WITH LOVE:
IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME:
MORE THAN YOU KNOW:
It was snowing that afternoon, but the music kept us warm for days, and it continues to do so now.