Away from the piano, Paolo abd Stehanie by Ugo Galassi.
Perhaps some readers will need reminding that “Stephanie” and “Paolo” are wonderful pianists, singly or together, and a happily married couple, known to us as Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi— dear friends of mine for many years. They are also two of the busiest people I know, which is a good thing, so that it was a special pleasure to be on the Stomptime jazz cruise with them last spring and get a chance to watch them, away from the piano, tell their stories in a morning interview session, the bright idea of pianist-organizer Brian Holland, who has many bright ideas and is also the discreet interlocutor here (you’ll also hear from pianist Jeff Barnhart asking questions).
I confess, before another word is read, that the title of this blogpost is inaccurate: fact-checkers and Corrections Officers in the audience will note that the three interview segments add up to slightly less than sixty minutes. I apologize humbly, but shall add on some video-music at the end of the post so that no one feels cheated.
Here they are, with Marty Eggers and Danny Coots, at Rossmoor in 2014:
Paolo and Stephanie don’t disappoint, so if they are in your neighborhood (that’s anywhere from Central Pennsylvania to Switzerland) you should get out of your chair and see them.
Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto, had never performed with Carl Sonny Leyland, piano and vocal; Marty Eggers, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums. But when they got together for a set at the Jazz Bash by the Bay, “Music was made,” to quote James Chirillo. The first part of this glorious mutual improvisation can be found here, with exquisite leisurely performances of WABASH BLUES, IF I HAD MY WAY, BOOGIE WOOGIE, also an explanation of my whimsical title.
Here is the remainder of that memorable set.
YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME:
ROSES OF PICARDY:
WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE:
47th STREET JIVE:
What a wonderful quartet! I look forward to their next meeeting(s).
The 1932 best-seller (with a Will Rogers movie a few years later):
Even before I was 40, I was slightly suspicious of the idea, even though it came from better health and thus longer life expectancy. Was it an insult to the years that came before? And now that I’m past forty . . . .
The bands and soloists who will be featured include John Royen, Katie Cavera, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Grand Dominion, John Gill, On the Levee Jazz Band, the Mad Hat Hucksters, Carl Sonny Leyland, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Chicago Cellar Boys, Titanic Jazz Band, the Night Blooming Jazzmen, and more than twenty others, with youth bands, sets for amateur jammers, and the Saturday-night dance extravaganza featuring On The Levee and the Mad Hat Hucksters.
The Festival is also greatly comfortable, because it is one of those divine ventures where the music is a two-to-five minute walk from the rooms at the Town and Country Convention Center.
is the “almost final” band schedule for Wednesday night through Sunday. I will wait until the “final” schedule comes out before I start circling sets in pen and highlighting them — but already I feel woozy with an abundance of anticipated and sometimes conflicting pleasures.
For most of the audience, one of the pleasures of the festival circuit is returning to the familiar. Is your trad heartthrob the duo Itch and Scratch, or the Seven Stolen Sugar Packets? At a festival, you can greet old friends both on the bandstand and in the halls. But there’s also the pleasure of new groups, and the special pleasure of getting to meet and hear someone like John Royen, whom I’ve admired on records for years but have never gotten a chance to meet.
Here’s John, playing Jelly:
And here are a few previously unseen videos from my visits to the Jazz Fest. First, one of my favorite bands ever, the band that Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones co-led, here with Doug Finke, Katie Cavera, Hal Smith, Chris Dawson, and Marty Eggers — in a 2014 performance of a Fats classic:
and the Chicago Cellar Boys — who will be at this year’s fest — in 2018. The CCB is or are Andy Schumm, John Otto, Paul Asaro, Johnny Donatowicz, and Dave Bock:
and for those deep in nostalgia for traditional jazz on a cosmic scale, how about High Sierra plus guests Justin Au and Doug Finke in 2014:
Pick the bands you like, explore those new to you, but I hope you can make it to this jolly explosion of music and friendship: it is worth the trip (and I’m flying from New York). You’ll have an unabridged experience and lose your anxieties!
You might be walking along Barrow Street, on the Bleecker Street side of Seventh Avenue South (all this conjecture is taking place in Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, the United States); you could look up and see this sign.
You might just think, “Oh, another place to have an ale and perhaps a burger,” and you’d be correct, but in the most limited way.
Surprises await the curious, because down the stairs is the sacred ground where the jazz club Cafe Bohemia existed in the Fifties, where Miles, Lester, Ben, Coltrane, Cannonball, Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Pettiford played and live sessions were recorded.
Here’s the room as it is now. Notice the vertical sign?
This isn’t one of those Sic Transit Gloria Mundi posts lamenting the lost jazz shrines (and certainly there is reason enough to write such things) BECAUSE . . .
On Thursday, October 17, yes, this week, the new Cafe Bohemia will open officially. This is important news to me and I hope to you. So let me make it even more emphatic.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, THE NEW CAFE BOHEMIA OPENS.
That is as emphatic as WordPress permits. I was there on September 26, for the club’s trial run (more about that below) and I was delighted to find very friendly staff, good food and drink, pleasing sight lines and a receptive crowd, so it was a nostalgic return to a place I’d never been.
But back to current events. On this coming Thursday, there will be two shows, an early show at 6:45 and a late one at 9:30. These shows will be, as they say in retail, “value-packed”! Each show will feature wonderfully entertaining and enlightening record-spinning of an exalted kind by Fat Cat Matthew Rivera, bringing his Hot Club to the Village on a regular basis, AND live jazz from the Evan Arntzen Quartet including guitarist Felix Lemerle, string bassist Alex Claffy, and drummer Andrew Millar. Although the Bohemia hasn’t yet posted its regular schedule, their concept is both ambitious and comforting: seven nights of live jazz and blues music of the best kind.
Buy tickets here for the early show, here for the late one. It’s a small room, so be prepared. (I am, and I’ll be there.) And here is the Eventbrite link for those “who don’t do Facebook.”
If you follow JAZZ LIVES, or for that matter, if you follow lyrical swinging jazz, I don’t have to introduce Evan Arntzen to you. And if, by some chance, his name is oddly new to you, come down anyway: you will be uplifted. I guarantee it.
But who is Matthew Rivera?
I first met Matt Rivera (to give him his full handle, “Fat Cat Matthew Rivera,” which he can explain to you if you like) as a disembodied voice coming through my speakers as he was broadcasting on WKCR-FM a particularly precious musical reality — the full spectrum of jazz from before 1917 up to the middle Fifties, as captured on 78 RPM disks.
It isn’t a dusty trek into antiquity: Matt plays Miles and Bird, Gene Ammons and Fats Navarro next to “older styles.” Here’s Matt in a characteristically devout pose, at Cafe Bohemia:
and the recording (you’ll hear it on this post) that is the Hot Club’s theme song:
About two weeks ago, I visited the Fat Cat in his Cafe Bohemia lair and we chatted for JAZZ LIVES. YouTube decided to edit my long video in the middle of a record Matt was spinning, but I created a video of the whole disk later. Here’s the nicely detailed friendly first part:
and the second part:
and some samples of the real thing. First, the complete WHO?
DEXTERITY, with Bird, Miles, and Max:
and finally, a Kansas City gem featuring tenor player Dick Wilson and Mary Lou Williams and guitarist Floyd Smith:
Cafe Bohemia isn’t just a record-spinning listening party site, although the Fat Cat will have a regular Hot Club on Monday nights. Oh, no. When I attended the club’s trial run on September 26, there was live jazz — a goodly helping — of the best, with Mara Kaye singing (acoustically) blues and Billie with the joyous accompaniment of that night’s Cafe Bohemia Jazz Band: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Brian Nalepka, string bass. Here’s their opening number, ST. LOUIS BLUES:
The first word Mara utters on that video is “Wow,” and I echo those sentiments. Immense thanks are due owner Mike Zieleniewski and the splendid Christine Santelli as well as the musicians and staff.
See you downstairs at Cafe Bohemia on Thursday night: come over and say hello as we welcome this birth and rebirth to New York City.
A corner in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood: Google says it is “18th and Racine”:
then, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer Andy Schumm:
then, some music that ties the two together: a performance of Andy’s own “18th and Racine” on September 13, 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, with Dan Levinson, Dan Barrett, John Sheridan, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malachi:
That’s an admirable piece of music, which nobody can deny. The players are dressed in adult business attire, but they are neither stiff nor constrained; in fact, there’s a bit of unscripted comic repartee before they start to play.
I have been digging through my archives to find previously unknown performances from Jazz at Chautauqua, starting in 2011. This video, this performance, was hidden in plain sight: it had been given to the larger YouTube public for free six years and a month ago. I was dumbstruck to see that it had been viewed fewer than one hundred times. Was it dull? Was it “bad,” whatever that means? Had the Lone YouTube Disliker come out of the basement to award it his disapproval? No, none of those things.
I write this not because my feelings are hurt (Love me, love my videos, or the reverse) but because I don’t understand this lack of enthusiasm.
“Pop” music videos are viewed by millions, and the audience for “hot jazz,” “trad,” whatever you want to call it, is a crumb in the cosmic buffet.
But — follow me. Invent a band with a clever name. Let them sit in chairs on the street in the sunshine. Let them be a mix of young women and young men. Let them be emotive. Let there be a washboard. Perhaps one of the members is fashionably unshaven. There are shorts, there are legs, there are sandals, there are boots. No one wears a suit, because buskers have their own kind of chic, and it has nothing to do with Brooks Brothers. If the members know who Strayhorn and Mercer are, they keep such knowledge to themselves. They are very serious but they act as if they are raw, earthy, primitive. Someone sings a vaguely naughty blues.
Mind you, this is all invention.
But let a fan post a new video of this imaginary group and in four days, eleven thousand people scramble to it.
I understand that my taste is not your taste. And I know that anyone who privileges their taste (“I know what the real thing is. I like authentic jazz!”) is asking for an argument. But . . . .”Huh?” as I used to write on student essays when I couldn’t figure out what in the name of Cassino Simpson was going on.
Is this the triumph of sizzle over substance? Is the larger audience listening with their eyes, a group of people in love with bold colors in bold strokes? Is all art equally good because some people like it?
And if your impulse now is to reproach me, “Michael, you shouldn’t impose your taste on others,” I would remind you that imposition is not my goal and shouldn’t be yours, and that there is no schoolyard bully at your door threatening, “Like what you see on JAZZ LIVES or else, and gimme your lunch money!”
Everyone has an opinion. I spoke with an amiable fan at a jazz festival. I had been delighting in a singularly swinging and persuasive band, no one wearing funny clothes or making noises, and when I told her how much pleasure I was taking, she said, “That band would put me to sleep! I like (and she named a particularly loud and showy assemblage whose collective volume was never less than a roar). I replied, “Not for me,” and we parted, each of us thinking the other at best misguided. Or perhaps she thought me a New York snob, and I will leave the rest of the sentence unwritten. The imp of the perverse regrets now, perhaps six years later, that I didn’t ask in all innocence, “Do you like Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins?” and see what her reply was.
As the King says, “Is a puzzlement.”
Legal notice: no such band as described above exists, and any resemblance to a group of persons, real or imagined, is accidental. No one in the 2013 performance video asked me to write this post in their defense, and they may perhaps be embarrassed by it, for which I apologize. Any other questions should be directed to JAZZ LIVES Customer Service, to be found in the rear of our headquarters (look for the bright red cat door). Thank you.
Early on November 4, 2016, an august group of informally-attired gentlemen assembled within the Village Hotel in Newcastle, England, at what is now called Mike Durham’s Whitley bay Classic Jazz Partyto rehearse their set of songs and arrangements by the most-talented and most short-lived Alex Hill. Their aims: to have a jubilee and also do some needed functionizin’.
The truly all-star band was led by trumpeter / scholar / arranger Menno Daams, and was comprised of David Boeddinghaus, piano; Spats Langham, guitar and vocal; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums; Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, trumpets; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Richard Exall, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, reeds; Jim Fryer, Alistair Allan, trombones.
This was a rehearsal: thus, not everything had already been polished through focused playing and replaying, but the absence of an audience occasionally lets musicians cut loose and experiment. I’ve intentionally left in the pre-and-post comments to give listeners the experience of being there.
And although they knew I was there, they happily managed to ignore me, which was fine then and turned into a great boon for all of us. I had a wonderful view of the chairs, but one must sit far enough back in the room to capture everyone in the band. My focus wasn’t perfect, but at least you can blame the camera rather than its operator. The sound is clear, and the absence of an audience, bringing pint mugs back and forth and chatting, is a great boon, although sharp-eared video observers will hear some commentary which usually stops when the band begins.
About the band name: I don’t think Menno and Co. had an official collective sobriquet in the program, and many of the original Hill sessions were issued as “his Hollywood Sepians,” and no amount of linguistic immolation on my part could convert that to a group title both appropriate and inoffensive. I will leave the possible variations on that theme to you, and comments offering such names will, alas, never see the light of cyber-day.
On to the blessed music. LET’S HAVE A JUBILEE:
SONG OF THE PLOW:
AIN’T IT NICE?:
DISSONANCE (Mezz Mezzrow took credit, but it is a Hill composition and arrangement):
DELTA BOUND (with wonderful singing by Mr. Langham, typically):
FUNCTIONIZIN’, a close cousin of SQUEEZE ME:
KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL, wise advice:
One of the unannounced pleasures of this Party, held this November in the same space [the “v.snuggly” Village Hotel] is that well-behaved listeners are welcome to sit in on rehearsals — a rare pleasure. Blessings on Alex, Menno, and the wonderful musicians for their splendid work in keeping the good sounds alive.
And just so you know my enthusiasm is global, not local, this comment, relayed through my good friend Sir Robert Cox: “Tom [that’s Spats] said how brilliant Menno’s arrangements were and how much, to their astonishment, rehearsal had taken only 45 minutes. He said that, never in the history of the party, had a rehearsal lasted less than an hour.”
I am moderately accident-prone: I can trip over an uneven sidewalk; have the last bit of salad dressing adhere to my shirt; while driving, I may unsuccessfully avoid a pothole with an $800 repair bill as the result. I laugh about it.
So I admire those who see the looming catastrophe, however its size and shape, and step around it without spilling their tea. They aren’t Bojangles, Fred, or Gene — just people who sense the landmine and gracefully avoid it. Jazz musicians are especially good at fixing errors before they turn into train wrecks.
Two of these Masters — you could call them spiritual acrobats or merely veterans of the trade — are trombonist Bob Havens and guitarist / singer / arranger Marty Grosz. Both of these heroes are born in 1930, so when this brief interlude took place on September 16, 2011, they were 81. Decades of experience! The occasion was the yearly Jazz at Chautauqua, the beloved child of Joe Boughton, that was held at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York (ninety minutes from Buffalo). It was a memorable jazz weekend, with about thirty musicians playing and singing from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon.
One of the particular delights of Chautauqua grew out of Joe’s love for beautiful semi-forgotten songs. Thus the weekend began and ended with a ballad medley. Four musicians were chosen as a skilled rhythm section, and from one side of the stage, everyone else walked on, indicated briefly to the rhythm section what song they had chosen and in what key, played or sang a chorus at a slow tempo, and walked offstage from the other side. Emotionally powerful, visually charming, full of surprises and sweet sensations.
For the 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua’s closing medley, the rhythm section was Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; Arnie Kinsella, drums. The complete medley ran perhaps twenty minutes: I’ve excerpted a segment I find particularly touching.
You’ll see at the start of this excerpt Bob Havens step onstage and explain by words and gestures that he plans to play — in seconds — LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND, the nostalgic creation of Charles and Nick Kenny and Danny Coots’ great-uncle, J. Fred. It’s a favorite song of mine, first recorded in 1931 by (among others) Ruth Etting, then made into a huge success by Pat Boone. I won’t comment on what the trajectory from Ruth to Pat suggests to me, especially because it was one of Vic Dickenson’s favorites also (his medium-bounce version can be found on YouTube). In its homespun way, it’s a seventeenth-century poem: human love always loses the battle with nature and time, and tears are inevitable.
The opening phrase is familiar, the harmony simple, but unless my ears deceive me, there is a slight uncertainty in the rhythm section about the harmonies that follow, so Havens, used to this sort of thing for decades, “spells out” the harmony by emphasizing arpeggiated chords as he goes along — and the performance not only reaches its goal but our hearts as well.
Then Marty, who always goes his own way, thank goodness, asks everyone to be silent while he essays EMALINE. That in itself would be brave — the lyrics to the chorus are pure Waltons-Americana, but they might be fairly well known. No, our hero Martin Oliver Grosz begins with the verse and gets about one-third of the way before realizing his memory of the lyrics is incomplete: hear his inimitable rescue! And the chorus is just lovely. Incidentally, Frank Tate is someone I deeply admire: watch and listen to this clip again, and look at his facial expressions as Marty walks the thorny path he has chosen for himself.
For those who need to know (I had to look them up) the pretty although seriously hackneyed lyrics to the verse are: Ev’ning breezes hum a lullaby / There’s a million candles in the sky / I’ve put on my Sunday suit of blue / Emaline, just for you / Here I’m standing at your garden gate / While the village clock is striking eight / Hurry up! Hurry down! / Honey, don’t be late! (I especially like the “up” and “down,” but I’m a sentimentalist.)
The musicians on this stage (and their friends) are my role models. What does a brief error matter if you either head it off or make a joke out of it: in both cases, they not only avoid trouble but cover it up so stylishly that the result is even better than plain old competence. All hail!
There will be more previously unknown treasures from the Jazz at Chautauqua weekends — and then its successor, the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — in months to come. “Too good to ignore,” said Eddie Condon, who spoke truth.