Category Archives: Wow!

BABY, BABY, ALL THE TIME! MORE FROM MARTY GROSZ and the SELF-PRESERVATION ORCHESTRA: DANNY TOBIAS, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM GICKING, VINCE GIORDANO, JIM LAWLOR (Awbury Arboretum, Philadelphia: June 23, 2021)

A wonderful evening! Marty, guitar, vocal, badinage, repartee, stories, insults; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; tuba; string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums.

Let the impatient consumers of pure music be warned: I’ve retained large chunks of Marty’s introductory screeds. Yes, you can scroll forward . . . but in some decades, should we all be around, hearing Marty’s voice and comedy will seem a great gift. (Wouldn’t you like to hear Omer Simeon introducing the next number? I certainly would.) Thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig for making all this happen.

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?

Later in the evening . . . the light had changed, but the hot-jazz spirits were still in attendance, for this cheerfully homemade performance — not the perfection of recording studio, but full of life.

My adolescent self demands that I point out that Benny Hill used to announce this song as EVERY BABY LOVES MY BODY, which for some, might be true. However, most know it as EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

There’s more to come from this concert, blessedly. Marty would say mockingly, “Isn’t that interesting?” but this music rises above mockery.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT?” and TWO FOR LOUIS: DUKE HEITGER, BOB BARNARD, BOB HAVENS, BOBBY GORDON, JIM DAPOGNY, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO, KEVIN DORN (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 28, 2006)

Where it happened!

From 2004 until its end in 2017, under a new name, the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend jazz party provided some of the best happy musical moments of my life.  I didn’t always have a video camera, nor was I always allowed or encouraged to record the musical proceedings.  (Joe Boughton was always kind to me, but stories of his fierce response to disobedience had preceded him.)  But I did have a pocket, and in it I hid a Sony digital recorder, which captured some uplifting moments. If you shut your eyes and imagine being there, transcendent hot sounds will transform the next twenty minutes, recorded during the informal Thursday-night session.  You’ll hear some rustling (the penalty of sub rosa recording) and the splendid drum accents explode, but shouldn’t they?

The joys are created by Bob Barnard, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Jim Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; Kevin Dorn, drums: OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT? / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES / SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:

I do hope Carl saved a piece of cake for Marty. These three performances are like a whole bakery to me, and they haven’t become stale after fifteen years.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:

ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE:

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

Michael Kanan. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

INFINITE PROPULSION: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (RAY SKJELBRED, KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON, KATIE CAVERA, May 25, 2014)

The Original, itself.

That’s 1929. But here’s 2014, at the Sacramento Music Festival — a hot Chicago-style performance (with “surprise vocal”) by the most eloquent Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, who are Ray, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums:

What a gorgeous serving of energies: “infinite propulsion” characterizes the song but also the Cubs, a band I look forward to seeing again . . . soon.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

Kenny Davern

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

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

May your happiness increase!

LEO FORDE’S GRACIOUS MUSIC: THE GIZINTI ACOUSTIC TRIO, “ANNIE GOES OUT TO THE BALL GAME”

Sometimes it’s a real blessing, a gift, to encounter music that isn’t dutifully trying to Prove Something, insisting that we admire its Authenticity. Guitarist Leo Forde has got the wonderful notion into his head and fingers that music, candid and gentle, ought to be enough for anyone. And he’s not only intellectually right, but emotionally so. I suspect that being born in Glasgow has something to do with it, but the JAZZ LIVES genetic scientists are still exploring that theory.

Listen to a few samples from his new CD, which floats on an engaging mixture of whimsy, sincerity, and feeling:

or this?

Here’s some information to help you out, now that you’ve heard the nicely swinging sounds.

I know that some listeners, eager to have their music put in its correct box, will call this “Gypsy jazz,” but it seems happily to be a light-hearted distillation of impulses larger than that title: Leo, John Rodli, and Nobu Ozaki, haven’t fallen into the dramatic excesses of that school: tempos that leave the listener gasping — whether for oxygen or in admiration, I never know — and soloing that chooses virtuosity over heartfelt melody.

Leo’s music is much more conversational: a group of friends sitting together, having a good time, exploring what might be played, supporting each other’s impulses to form a gentle small community.

I asked Leo to tell me a bit about himself and the band and he wrote back, I’m originally from Glasgow, Scotland and have been in New Orleans since 2014. I work mostly with Aurora Nealand, Meschiya Lake and The Hot Club of New Orleans. As you probably know, Rodli was an original member of the Jazz Vipers and King James and the Special Men and now plays with Doro Wat and The Palmetto Bug Stompers. Nobu plays alot with John Boutte. We were getting together during the pandemic at Three Muses on Frenchmen Street (which John’s wife Sophie Lee owns) and the album is the result. Since they reopened, we play at Three Muses and Cafe Degas once a week.

Gizinti is a made up Scottish word referring to a wake the night before a funeral because it’s when the coffin ‘goes intae’ the church. It seemed funny at the time.

I encourage you to chase down this CD — on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, and soon on Bandcamp. It will refresh your spirits and the music, unassuming and kind, will stay with you in the nicest ways.

May your happiness increase!

ELLA FITZGERALD, JIMMIE ROWLES, KETER BETTS, BOBBY DURHAM at ANTIBES, “Festival de jazz d’Antibes, Juan-les-Pins,” July 22, 1981

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. The 1959 Mercedes has been sold.

This is one-half of a rare concert — no other performances from this year were captured — singular for that reason, and because it is the only evidence I have of Ella performing with Jimmie Rowles, piano; Keter Betts, string bass; Bobby Durham, drums, and the trio is featured for the first thirty-five minutes of this presentation. I think the Rowles solo medley is so very precious.

Here’s the bill of fare:

Rowles, Betts, Durham: DEVIL’S ISLAND / THE LADY IN THE CORNER / Betts feature / THE PEACOCKS – MY FUNNY VALENTINE – GOODBYE (JR solo) / NOW’S THE TIME (Durham) // Ella: THEM THERE EYES / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / LET’S DO IT / AFTER YOU’VE GONE / Ella introduces the trio / TAKE THE “A” TRAIN (Drop Me Off In Harlem – I Love New York) / QUIET NIGHTS // Antibes Jazz Festival, July 22, 1981.

And the music:

May your happiness increase!

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

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

CLEMENTINE (from New Orleans):

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

STOMPING AT SUNDOWN: COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT at THE MORRIS MUSEUM, MORRISTOWN: MIKE DAVIS, VINCE GIORDANO, TROY ANDERSON, JULIAN JOHNSON, ARNT ARNTZEN, ALBANIE FALLETTA, DAN LEVINSON (June 10, 2021)

The band.
The scene, that hot night in Morristown.

The purveyors of joy were Colin, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal.

I’ve already posted MILENBERG JOYS, BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN, CLARINET MARMALADE, WHISPERING, EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT, and YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT — one pleasure for each day of the week.

Here are two Twenties classics, glorious hot music, the last evidence of what was a stunning evening.

LOUISIANA:

and FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE:

Now. This concert ended (for those who were there) and the nine performances I’ve posted are also, in their own way, glorious yet finite. Suppose you thirst for more of the hot music Colin and friends create? If you live in New York City or nearby, you can visit him on various gigs . . . but you might also want to have a little shiny plastic hour of superb joys for your very own. Hence, I urge you to investigate his new CD on the Rivermont Records label, COLLEGIATE.

and here’s what I had to say about it just a few days ago:

May your happiness increase!

“CAN’T YOU SEE HOW HAPPY WE WOULD BE?”: DANNY TOBIAS AND THE SAFE SEXTET with MARY LOU NEWNAM (RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, PAT MERCURI, JOE PLOWMAN, JIM LAWLOR): Pennsylvania Jazz Society, June 13, 2021)

Photograph by Lynn Redmile.

Classic songs, played with expertise and feeling, by Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn; Jim Lawlor, drums; Mark Shane, piano; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; (guest) Mary Lou Newnam, tenor saxophone . . . thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society.

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (Randy) / BODY AND SOUL (Mary Lou) / MOOD INDIGO (Danny):

Charlie Shavers’ UNDECIDED:

ONE HOUR, or, for the pedantic among us, IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:

And a lovely swinging beverage, TEA FOR TWO, from which I draw my title:

A wonderfully rewarding afternoon . . . and you haven’t seen or heard all of it yet.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

In case you missed it — in person or in blogland — here is Opus One by the Mini-EarRegulars of June 27, 2021: SUNDAY, UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE, and BLUE LOU, performed by Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar.

And here are the three remaining delights from that first set. It was warm, but with cooling breezes: a nice meteorological metaphor for the music created so generously and nimbly by this Trio.

AM I BLUE? (a question with the easy answer NO!):

(IT’S ONLY) A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN (one of those precious pop songs of the last century that few jazz groups attempt these days, which makes this performance all the more precious) — in a performance whose focused momentum is, to me, thrilling:

Finally, the WABASH BLUES, yes, rock and roll, the old-fashioned ways:

Much more to come from this restorative Sunday afternoon session. Were you there?

May your happiness increase!

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

Words later. First, this magical video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

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

Sidney Catlett, Nice, 1948.

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

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

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

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

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

May your happiness increase!

SWING NEVER WENT AWAY: BENNY GOODMAN, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, JACK SIX, BUDDY RICH (“The Merv Griffin Show,” October 15, 1979)

If you read the freeze-dried accounts of American popular music history, this music had been dead for thirty years, when “the Swing Era” expired. But how wrong that oversimplification is, proven by these eight minutes. A very lively corpse, no? This segment is from the Merv Griffin Show (Merv was a big-band singer before he became a talk-show host, television producer, and real-estate mogul, among other attributes) featuring musicians I won’t have to identify — Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Jimmie Rowles, Bucky Pizzarelli . . . you can figure out who Jack Six is and what he is doing by process of elimination, if you don’t already know him. The two songs chosen are a very mellow AS LONG AS I LIVE, harking back to the Sextet recording with Charlie Christian and Count Basie, and then — quite rare in “modern times,” I GOT RHYTHM played as itself. Beautiful playing from everyone — inspired and inspiring:

May your happiness increase!

SOLID SENDERS, NO DOUBT: JONATHAN STOUT and his CAMPUS FIVE featuring HILARY ALEXANDER: “HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF”– and the debut of THE CLOSE SHAVE QUARTET (2020-21)

For those who know, the simple words “Jonathan Stout and his band have issued a new CD” will be enough of a powerful summons to the senses. Swing of a multi-colored sort, romping and tender, awaits. Here is one place to find out about the new disc; here is the source of the good news.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Your ears will tell you all you need to know: this compact aerodynamic little band is both assertive and subtle, a finely-tuned swing corporation. It’s built from the ground up, with a rhythm section that is raring to go from the downbeat. Thanks to drummer Josh Collazo in particular, they aren’t afraid to make the ground shake when it’s appropriate. Bassist Wally Hersom puts all the nice notes in the right places; pianist Chris Dawson lends his gleaming intelligence to every bar. And the leader, guitarist Jonathan Stout, is a triple-threat man: switching his talents from the acoustic mastery of Allan Reuss to the starbursts of Charlie Christian, as well as writing compositions that would have made Harry Lim proud. The front line is a wonderful pairing: the daring trumpet of Jim Ziegler (who also sings on RUSSIAN LULLABY) alongside the sauntering tenor of Albert Alva. Hilary Alexander has charm and more; she respects the lyrics and honors the melody, putting her attractive voice at the service of the song.

Swing is what they are all about. And listening to them, once again I lament my inadequacies as a swing dancer, because this is music to move to, rapturously. And their repertoire is especially delightful. In addition to Jonathan’s originals RIDING WITH PAUL, BOUNCIN’ WITH BUMPUS, PAGING DR. REUSS, TRICK OR TREAT, MOBTOWN ALL OUT, there are songs much-loved by those who dig deep . . . but which aren’t overdone: SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA, MANHATTAN, HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF, BETCHA I GETCHA, SING YOU SINNERS, WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN, RUSSIAN LULLABY, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, ARKANSAS, GOODNIGHT MY LOVE, DID YOU MEAN IT?, DOGGIN’ AROUND.

Beautifully recorded (in November 2020, mid-late pandemic times, following all CDC protocols, a response to despair and fear) with nice notes from Mr. Stout.

Oh. That’s not enough? How about CLOSE SHAVE by Jonathan’s Quartet — Jonathan Stout, leader and electric guitar; Craig Fundyga, vibraphone; Seth Ford-Young, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums — an EP with the songs RIDING WITH PAUL, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, WHEN YOU’RE SMILING, MOBTOWN ALL OUT, TRICK OR TREAT, GONE WITH “WHAT” WIND, and I’M CONFESSIN’. A band-within-a-band, flying high, smooth and intense. Listen and purchase here:

Technology offers us a treat: the Close Shave Quartet performed at the California Balboa Classic, as shown:

I’d asked Jonathan a question about these issues, and he nicely responded:

The “story” behind the release is that we recorded a proper, in-person Campus Five album back in November, and we were planning to do a livecast from the recording studio to promote it as a part of the California Balboa Classic web-event “CalBal: LIVE” on MLK weekend back in January. As COVID conditions we’re at their worst, the event realized even if with COVID protocols in place, getting a bunch of people indoors for a session was a bad example. I was crushed at first, but they asked if we could figure something else out – but with the least number of people possible, who could ALL be masked, and we would move outdoors. So, I remembered the band I put together originally to play the annual Xmas party at the barber shop I go to, which we christened the “Close Shave Quartet”.  There wasn’t much of a “book” to speak of, so I had to create a whole bunch of new arrangements to have a proper “finished product” for the event. This is a big dance event, under normal circumstances, and just jamming some tunes just isn’t my style or my strength. I wrote 4 new tunes during quarantine for the C5 album, and I was so excited to debut them, so I rearranged them for the Quartet as well, sort of as a “teaser” for the C5 album. Three of them are on this EP. Anyway, the combination of electric guitar, vibes, bass and drums seemed to be the least number of people while still having the range of textures and timbres I rely on to make arrangements have variety and dynamics.

If you gather from this presentation that JAZZ LIVES — as one writer, me, and as a worldwide force for good — thoroughly endorses the Stout brand of swing, you would be completely correct. Jonathan’s bands groove, glide, and please. Bless him, bless them. We need this music, so beautifully played and sung.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER KIND OF FIREWORKS DISPLAY: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DANNY TOBIAS, JAY RATTMAN, RICKY ALEXANDER, MATT MUNISTERI at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021

“Those things are dangerous. I knew someone who lost a finger,” we hear before and after the Fourth of July. However, there are other kinds of fireworks — lighting up even the afternoon sky with no danger to life or limb — that our beloved incendiary musicians create.

When swing meets the desire to spread happiness, Roman candles go off all over the place. The evidence follows.

This was the closing selection from the EarRegulars’ session of June 27 at The Ear Out, located outside 326 Spring Street in Soho, New York City.

The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass sax, and Official Friend and Sometimes Leader of the EarRegulars, Danny Tobias, trumpet. And they sounded Vincent Youmans’ clarion call, I WANT TO BE HAPPY. (I can never write that title without hearing either Wild Bill Davison or Kenny Davern in my mind’s ear, a la W. C. Fields, “Don’t we all!”)

No dangerous explosions, just sustained joys.

AND . . . on Sunday, July 4th, Jon-Erik will be joined by Grant Stewart, tenor saxophone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass . . . . rockets in the sky, to be sure.

May your happiness increase!

STREAMLINED HOT: FELIX HUNOT and THE JAZZ MUSKETEERS (2020)

This joyous session sneaked in so quietly that I neglected to review it: my apologies to the Gentlemen of the Ensemble. Don’t be like me and let these joys pass you by. It’s truly a WOW.

Let me explain. The Musketeers are Félix Hunot, guitar, banjo, vocal; Malo Mazurie, cornet, trumpet; David Lukacs, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Attila Korb, bass saxophone, vocals. Those of you with the barest awareness of the superb international hot jazz scene — or attentive readers of this blog — will recognize those names.

And now, A Metaphor. Those of you who wish to get an iced drink may do so. The great chefs rely on “reduction,” which in my case means cooking a good deal of chicken or vegetables to produce a smaller amount of highly-flavored liquid, a “stock,” that will flavor other dishes. I don’t know how nimble the Musketeers are in the kitchen, but this CD is a wonderful series of such reductions: great jazz repertoire and performances stripped of inessentials to arrive at powerfully savory dishes for the ear and the heart. Imagine, for instance, a rendition of the Goldkette MY PRETTY GIRL reimagined — oh so convincingly — for quartet, and you get the idea. The propulsive joy not only remains but seems even more present.

The compositions on which they work their magic are OSTRICH WALK, MY PRETTY GIRL, LAZY BONES, FROGGIE MOORE, MABEL’S DREAM, MISSISSIPPI MUD, I’M WALKIN’ (yes!), CRYIN’ ALL DAY, JAPANESE SANDMAN, THANKS FOR THE MEMORY, MAMANITA, and TIGER RAG. Felix plays MEMORIES OF YOU as a banjo solo — so very touching — and creates a ballad medley of three strains from Richard Wagner, for guitar, equally moving, and Attila Korb has written ADRIAN’S DREAM for his hero and ours, Adrian Rollini. Delicious repertoire, no?

But you don’t have to imagine. Just listen:

It’s wonderful, and consistently so — a series of happy reverent homages to the Hot Jazz tradition, electrified by the personalities of the four gifted musicians. Welcome, you Jazz Musketeers!

You can find it here, digitally or tangibly.

May your happiness increase!