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!

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

As James Chirillo has been known to say after a particularly satisfying session, “Music was made.” That it was, last Sunday afternoon in the bright sunshine (and cooling breezes) in front of the Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone. But before a note had been played, Jon-Erik noticed that the Check Engine light was shining from his trumpet, so he absented himself for a bit to get it looked at, secure that music would be made in his absence. (He came back before the set was over.)

This was a novel instrumentation, one that might have been either earthbound or unbalanced in the hands of lesser musicians. But the synergy here was more than remarkable, and the pleasure created in each chorus was palpable. This hot chamber trio — soaring, lyrical, rambunctious — performed six songs in their trio set. Here are the first three, to be savored.

SUNDAY, which goes back to 1926 (think Jean Goldkette and Cliff Edwards) but was also a favorite of Lester Young. Here, the Mini-EarRegulars also play the verse, an unexpected pleasure:

UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE was one of Frank Chace’s favorite songs, and I think of the tender version by Ella and Louis. A rarity, though: when was the last time you heard a group play it?

And Edgar Sampson’s rocking BLUE LOU:

A fellow listener turned to me between songs and said, marveling, “Aren’t they grand?” I agreed, as I hope you would have also.

Much more to come.

May your happiness increase!

“THE UNKNOWN ARV GARRISON: WIZARD OF THE SIX STRING / CLASSIC AND RARE RECORDINGS FROM THE 1940s”

This three-disc set released by Fresh Sounds is a cornucopia of pleasures, both musical and scholarly.

Arv Garrison (1922-60) was a superb guitarist, swinging and inventive, who understood how the melodic and rhythmic inventions of Django Reinhardt and others could be expanded into “the new thing” of Forties bebop. Although his recorded legacy is compact, it’s impressive and diversified. In his prime, he was respected and sought-after, as the names below prove. But for most of us he was hidden in plain sight. Now we can applaud what we approved of subliminally.

Garrison was adaptable; he fit easily into any context while remaining true to himself. He would be a wonderful question for a jazz-trivia night: “What musician played with Charlie Parker, Leo Watson, and Frankie Laine?” Although the most recent recording in this set is from 1948, his work still sounds fresh, and he doesn’t have a small assortment of favorite licks that grow overfamiliar quickly: he is, in the phrase beloved of new audience members, “making it up as he goes along.”

Here’s one version of WHERE YOU AT? — reminiscent of Frishberg before Frishberg:

The new focus on previously known recordings this set encourages is indeed enlightening: “fresh sounds” indeed. I’ve known only a dozen of the sixty-plus performances on this set, but I confess I never paid Garrison proper attention. Listening to YARDBIRD SUITE or A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, for instance, I was captivated by Bird and Miles; laughing my way through the Leo Watson session with Vic Dickenson, I knew there was an excellent guitarist, but I was waiting for Leo and Vic to return. (I’m sorry, Arv.)

But now, listening to him with new attention, I admire the easy brilliance of his soloing — his long lines that surprise, his reliable swing, and what he adds to the tonal color of the whole enterprise. Garrison knew his Django deeply, but he also had absorbed some of Charlie Christian’s loping audacity, and he easily breathed the harmonically-complex air that was 1946-48 California and New York. I also hear a creativity that runs parallel with Les Paul and Oscar Moore — who could be unaware of the early Nat Cole Trio recordings? — but he isn’t copying anyone. Garrison is comfortable in early classic Dial Records bebop; he can play a ballad with grace and emotional intelligence; he can swing out in the best Forties fashion. He’s delightful alongside Frankie Laine; he romps on his own, and he has confidence: in an AFRS broadcast where he solos alongside Barney Kessel, Les Paul, and Irving Ashby, he stands out. If he was intimidated by such fast company, no one heard it.

The nimble string bassist and singer-composer Vivien Garry, who married and outlived Garrison, was more than an oddity, more than a protege. She was the leader on more than half of the performances here, and she is far more than Samuel Johnson’s lady preacher. In fact, had the world of record producing been different (if our world was also) this would have been properly a dual feature. Her recording career began earlier and ended later; she performed with Benny Carter, Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, and was an integral part of two “all-girl” sessions. Garrison, a rather unworldly (or other-worldly?) young man, was no self-promoter, so we have to thank Garry for making a number of these record dates and radio appearances happen. Garrison was handsome, but Garry was that rarity — an attractive young woman jazz musician — and that helped a great deal in getting gigs, especially in the world of the late Forties where jazz and “entertainment” were friends. (Listen to Art Ford, on the WNEW broadcast — one that includes Charlie Ventura, Babs Gonzales, Kai Winding, and Lionel Hampton! — fuss over Arv and Vivien’s attractiveness, and you’ll understand.)

The musical content of this set is delightfully consistent; I listened to the three discs in two sittings, which is not my usual restless habit. Connoisseurs of the rare and obscure will also find much to delight them: private recordings, AFRS and commercial radio broadcasts, live remotes from a jazz club, and commercially issued 78s on the Sarco and Exclusive labels. Even scholars deep into this time and place will find surprises, and it’s easy to celebrate these three discs as musical anthropology of a world truly in flux.

The great surprise and pleasure is the nearly eighty-page book, with color illustrations (photographs and record labels, club ads) that accompanies this set. I’ve only read portions of it, because I wanted to listen to Arv and Vivien and friends without multi-tasking . . . but the book — to call it a “booklet” would be inaccurate — begins with twenty pages of intertwined portraiture by James A. Harrod and Bob Dietsche, the latter of who met and interviewed Vivien in the mid-Eighties, and it ends with Harrod’s detailed discography of the set.

In the middle is the real prize: nearly forty pages of beautifully detailed biographical-musical analysis by guitarist-scholar Nick Rossi, who has become one of my favorite jazz writers alongside Dan Morgenstern, Mark Miller, Loren Schoenberg, Dave Gelly, and Ricky Riccardi. Rossi does more than trace Garrison’s life from boyhood — staying up all hours playing along with Django in his room — to the sad end in a swimming accident before his 38th birthday. He has a fine awareness not only of guitar playing but of the art and history of jazz guitar and the contexts in which it became the jazz monolith it now is. Rossi’s writing is direct, evocative, clear, modest, and it welcomes the reader in, unlike other writers busy showing off how clever they are.

I’ve listened to the set with great pleasure, mingled with ruefulness that Garrison’s life and career ended as they did; now I plan to read Rossi’s essay with equal pleasure, and go back to the music. If that seems an expenditure of time and energy, I assure you that this set has already repaid me in excitement, discovery, and joys.

You can purchase the set at Amazon, no surprise, or directly from Fresh Sounds here, as I did (don’t let the price in euro scare you off if it’s not your native currency). Either way, it’s a lovely set.

May your happiness increase!

ALERT! BE ON THE LOOKOUT! ESCAPED TIGER RUNS THROUGH PENNSYLVANIA SUBURB, AUTHORITIES NOTIFIED.

I was only fooling. No need to call 911 or hide the children. I’m celebrating the closing performance of Danny Tobias and the Safe Sextet at the Pennsylvania Jazz Society’s June 13, 2021 concert in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. The Safe Sextet is Danny, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Randy Reinhart, trombone and euphonium; Mark Shane, piano; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums. And they play TIGER RAG — without devouring the song or the audience. This one’s for my friend / friend of the music Joan Bauer:

Anyway, should an escaped tiger have burst into the hall, we had our secret weapon / protector: Clyde Beauregard Redmile-Tobias, who would have pacified it with wags and licks:

More to come from this delightful afternoon, with no wild beasts in sight. (However, the photograph of the tiger caught my attention because of its lovely coat and shining teeth. Is there a Tiger Spa, and does this one floss?)

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Part Two), or MARTY PLAYS FATS, TWICE, WITH AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL INTERLUDE: MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO, DANNY TOBIAS, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM LAWLOR, JIM GICKING (Awbury Arboretum, June 23, 2021)

Preserving themselves or us? Consider the question.

You can find Part One here.

Marty Grosz has long had an affinity for the music of Fats Waller, which is only right. Here, at his June 23 concert, he offers two Waller classics for our pleasure and enlightenment, with an autobiographical interlude in between. The Members of the Ensemble, who so nobly support Martin Oliver Grosz on his Quest for Swing, are Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal.

KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW:

“I HAVE TO TELL YOU A LITTLE HISTORY”:

HOW CAN YOU FACE ME?:

Once again, immense thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig for making this evening’s festivities happen. There are more treats to come . . .

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, or MARTY GROSZ SINGS OF ROMANCE: MARTY GROSZ, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM GICKING, JIM LAWLOR (Awbury Arboretum, June 13, 2021)

The Gentlemen of the Ensemble.

I am very pleased to be able to report that the Second Marty Party happened, that I attended same, and that I can share delightful video evidence with those of you who didn’t get to sit under the tent in the blissful night air. Immense thanks are due Barry Wahrhaftig for his inspired persistence and devotion to the art.

Martin Oliver Grosz with Vince Giordano.

The band — dubbed “Marty Grosz and the Self-Preservation Orchestra,” is Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, badinage; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal. Here they perform LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, which bows to Bing Crosby, Eddie Condon, Milt Gabler, and Pee Wee Russell. Shades of Fifty-Second Street under the tent, among the trees:

More to come!

May your happiness increase!

ONE OF A HUNDRED GOLDEN ERAS and WE BLESS THE ARCHIVISTS: WILD BILL DAVISON, JIM GALLOWAY, DAN BARRETT, KEITH INGHAM, MILT HINTON, MARTY GROSZ, RUSS FEARON (1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival, Toronto, Canada)

Wild Bill Davison, Bern, 1985.

A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.

Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.

The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.

Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):

Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.

Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.

Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!

May your happiness increase!

THAT GENUINE BASIE FEELING: “LESTER’S BLUES”: A CONCERT FOR “SWING PARADISE” at HOT CLUB GENT (April 9, 2021)

I’ve written about the wonderful band, “Lester’s Blues,” led by tenor saxophonist Tom Callens, here, when they released their first recording, a few years ago. Those who play know that such swing isn’t something one learns in the first weeks of practice, but these musicians make it feel effortless . . . in the grand tradition.

But here is an hour of them in performance, lightly swinging but firmly in that 1936-40 groove: emulating but not copying. This session was aired 9th of April 2021 for the online Swing Paradise festival of Vilnius, Lithuania. The players are Frederik Van den Berghe, drums; Sam Gerstmans, string bass; Victor Da Costa, guitar; Luk Vermeir, piano; Frank Roberscheuten, clarinet / tenor saxophone; Hans Bossuyt, trumpet; Tom Callens, tenor saxophone.

And the songs — so well-chosen — are ESQUIRE BOUNCE / BROADWAY / I LEFT MY BABY / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / SIX CATS AND A PRINCE / ONE O’CLOCK JUMP / LITTLE WHITE LIES / TICKLE TOE / BASIE’S BOOGIE (I MAY BE WRONG) / AFTER THEATRE JUMP / JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE.

Listening to them, I am reminded that the early glorious Basie band was really a small group with extra horns added for volume and force, so that the dancers in large halls (before everything was amplified) could feel the band’s power. LESTER’S BLUES harks back to the streamlined, all-muscle Reno Club band — its essence so warmly and happily captured here:

I hear that this band — so right, so swinging — is making a second recording. You’ll learn of it here. For now, let your day and night be guided by this easy rocking motion. What a group!

May your happiness increase!

PERFECTLY SEASONED: FRANK ROBERSCHEUTEN, SHAUNETTE HILDABRAND, and FRIENDS CELEBRATE VIVALDI, THE MARCH OF THE CALENDAR, and THE GENTLE POWER OF SWEET SOUNDS

For those who, as the expression goes, “know what good is,” my title should be enough. The Frank Roberscheuten Hiptett has created a new two-CD set called FOUR SEASONS, and it’s a delight. I was tempted to call this post A BOX OF BEAUTY, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a small seasonal wordplay.

It’s taken me a long time to write this review, not because of I couldn’t find things to admire. Rather, I found too many, and the set has a chameleon-like quality: every time I thought I had its essential nature pinned down, ready to be put in to words, the next track came up and I had to rethink everything. Yes, you could compare it to the varied, ever-changing sensations we experience as we go through the year, or a delicious table spread with tasty dishes as far as the eye can see or the arm can reach. Or, perhaps, you should hear something first before being pummeled with metaphor. I’ve picked two compositions that share a summer theme.

Much of the delicious variety of this offering is because of the deep imaginations of reedman Frank Roberscheuten and singer-songwriter Shaunette Hildabrand: their delight in not doing the same thing, not repeating themselves, bubbles through the two dozen performances that make up the set. On alto, Frank can evoke the austere passion of a Desmond, then turn around and make me think of late Benny Carter with hints of Pete Brown; on clarinet, he suggests a warm De Franco; on tenor, a child of Cohn and Getz with notes of Freeman . . . but I never point to the speaker and say, “Did you hear that phrase going by? That’s [insert famous name]?” because Frank is his own man with his own sounds. Shaunette is such a warm-hearted singer that even if she were to sing the most acidic satiric lyrics they would sound like a hug, and when she sings of emotional openness her voice redoubles the caress of the lyrics. Her voice in itself is welcoming: I thought of Teddi King. And her lyrics are neat without being self-consciously clever, a good fit for the melodies they enliven. Pianist Olaf Polziehn makes me think of Hank Jones or Ellis Larkins . . . is their higher praise? And the other musicians — guests as well as regular members of the Hiptett — never hit a note that blares or is hard-edged. It’s possibly dangerously old-fashioned to write this, but the set is pretty music . . . not wallpaper, not Easy Listening, but music that gently invites the listener in and does not operate on the platform that Modern Art has to be chokingly hard to swallow to be valid. It doesn’t hurt a bit that the pivot for each season is an improvisation on a Vivaldi theme, with others by Rodgers, Ralph Burns, Waller, Carmichael, as well as the originals — strong melodic lines — by Frank, lyrics by Shaunette.

There’s an overriding lyricism, whether the sentiment is light-hearted or sorrowful, emotive but always with melodic and harmonic inventiveness and rhythmic motion:

Here’s what Frank has written about the set (taken from his site https://frankroberscheuten.com:

About one year ago the world we live in changed dramatically. Our social and in some cases professional lives, have been reduced to almost nothing. A stable factor in this turbulent year, however, was nature. The days passed like every year, season after season. These changes of nature inspired Vivaldi in the early 18th century to compose his famous “Quattro Stagioni”. The four seasons are, indeed, very inspiring with all the different colours, sounds and wonderful perfumes. They motivated me to produce this recording with my Hiptett, featuring different musical guests. This album consists of four parts, each starting with a transcription of the original Vivaldi composition, supplemented with jazz standards and my own original compositions. Vocalist Shaunette Hildabrand created lyrics for each season. Her input and that of Olaf Polziehn, Jos Machtel and Oliver “Bridge” Mewes are impeccable. Bert Boeren, Hein de Jong and the vocal quartet add interesting textures to the CD. As always, Geurt Engelsman did a fabulous job with the recording. Just contact me if you would like to order this double album. frank.roberscheuten@planet.nl, or phone. Enjoy the Four Seasons with the Frank Roberscheuten Hiptett.

It’s a beautiful creative effort and a purchase with definite curative powers. When the world is harsh, it will remind the listener that it need not be so; when the world is gorgeous, it will be the best soundtrack.

May your happiness increase!

HOLY RELICS: 1. ALBERTON HANSON, MUSIC LOVER (1940-41). 2. MISS WILEY, SIREN.

It’s amazing how tiny relics carry such weight and hint at such stories. Here’s a small collection of autographs for sale (for the moment) on eBay, and the link is here:

If possible, the back sides of these slips of paper — eighty years old — are even more revealing:

I wrote to the seller who promptly and politely told me that Maxwell’s was in St. Joseph’s, Missouri (although a few might be from his father’s move to Los Angeles), and that these were his father’s treasures — and that “Albertina” might have been an example of his “off-the-wall humor.” So there you have it — a little in-person slice of life documenting what it would be like to stand in front of the band and ask Mr. Miller or Mr. Cole for an autograph — when the Cab Calloway band played the “Frog Hop” — an actual place, a ballroom built by one Frank Frogge.

What a wonderful thing that these pages survive!

In the same eBay sweep, I found these portraits of Miss Lee Wiley, who obviously might have been a film siren if the circumstances had been different. Rumor has it that her one film appearance (circa 1936, in a variety short with Woody Herman) never was seen because she was so difficult to work with. But these photographs are powerful evidence of her beautiful sensuality — even when she wasn’t singing.

Star of radio — which was THE medium for music in 1934.
What beauty.
I wonder what the photographer suggested to her.
I think the song on the piano is NO MORE LOVE, popular in 1933.
Later, c. 1944, perhaps by Gjon Mili for LIFE, with momentary-husband Jess Stacy.

Here’s Lee with Leo Reisman in 1931, singing Vincent Youmans:

Thanks to eBay, the world’s attic, and to the sellers who keep finding things for us to rhapsodize over.

May your happiness increase!

WORDS FOR THE FATHER OF US ALL

Father’s Day, where I live, is a matter of taking Pater to the Diner in the morning, after the giving of gifts. That’s perfectly nice, even though the Old Man has to pick up the bill for the pancakes and orange juice.

But we all are indebted to parents who didn’t share their DNA with us in some direct fashion. I mean no disrespect to my biological father when I write that I’ve envisioned Louis Armstrong as one of my fathers for a long time now. That brings us to the latest Mosaic Records box set, which is at once a great gift and terribly intimidating for anyone, even someone like myself, to write about. Here are the details, complete with sound clips, of this seven-CD set.

Before I presume to write about the importance of this set and of this period in Louis’ art, I will let the music speak.

and Dave and Iola Brubeck’s SUMMER SONG:

I know there are people deaf to Louis’ majesty, the grandeur of his trumpet, the intimacy of his voice, his direct appeal to our emotions. I won’t dignify their deafness by battling it: this post is for those who can, in fact, hear and be moved.

The Mosaic set delineates, in its typically loving, careful way, perhaps the last great period of Louis’ career, where the paradox of his life was most evident: an artist much loved, playing and singing to audiences world-wide, but also being criticized by those who wanted him to be someone else. Thank goodness Louis was wise enough to follow his inner light — enacting the truth that music that pleased people was inherently good and worthy.

Louis made friends by shining that honest heartfelt light, and the Mosaic set, very clearly, documents two of those friendships. (I’m not even referring to the musicians he worked with who loved him.)

The first was with the jazz fan-writer-archivist-record producer George Avakian, who began his devoted work in the service of Louis as a college student in 1939-40 helping to produce jazz records and digging out unissued masterpieces for reissue. When Avakian began to produce long-playing records for Columbia, he eventually made possible Louis’ albums focused on the music of W.C. Handy and Fats Waller, thematic creations that were both jolly effusions and masterful architecture — not just a series of lovely bricks but soaring cathedrals. George also loved to use his editing tools — in his case, scissors and splicing tape — to produce what he felt would be the Platonic ideal, the performance that should have happened — so the Mosaic set presents a mountain of previously unheard material. He was incredibly long-lived, making it to 98 in 2017, and his imprint is on this music, for which we are grateful.

The second friend is the much younger Ricky Riccardi, happily still with us (because he was born in 1980) — Louis’ most loving documentarian, author of two books on his hero with a third on the way. Born nine years too late to be Louis’ actual Boswell, he has made up for it by annotating Louis’ life in prose and by being the energetic force behind a small tower of CD reissues. His notes are funny, warm, loose, and always solidly based on evidence. Mosaic, as always, has generously packaged this music with Ricky’s — what would I call it except a small book? — their glorious sound restoration, photographs, and exact data.

For me, it is both an affirmation of Louis’ glory — not that, for me, he needs any reinforcement — and a winding trip back through my childhood. I had the W.C. Handy, Waller, and Brubeck sets; I had the Columbia 45 of CABARET and the Victor reissues. So to put any disc in the player is to hear once again the music that shaped my taste . . . but since Mosaic has also provided music that otherwise would be unheard, it is two kinds of time-travel in one.

This is a shorter-than-usual review and exhortation to purchase than you might expect. But that someone would not want to hear and rehear SUGAR, I WANT A LITTLE GIRL, LONG LONG JOURNEY from the Victor sessions, new takes from the Columbia discs, Louis singing and playing NOMAD once again: it seems unthinkable. It’s as if someone said to me, “I never look at the sky. That bores me.”

Here is the discography for the set.

That’s my small Father’s Day effusion in honor of the man so rightly and so frequently called POPS.

May your happiness increase!

DREAM YOUR TROUBLES AWAY: DANNY TOBIAS and The SAFE SEXTET — JIM LAWLOR, RANDY REINHART, DANNY TOBIAS, MARK SHANE, JOE PLOWMAN, PAT MERCURI (Pennsylvania Jazz Society, June 13, 2021)

The reedman-raconteur Leroy “Sam” Parkins used to say that certain performers and performances “got” him “right in the gizzard.” I only know the gizzard from chickens, but I know what he meant: when a vocal or instrumental performance makes it hard to breathe because of an inrush of emotion. I feel that way when I hear Louis perform THAT’S MY HOME, or see the clip of Fred Astaire singing to soapily-coiffed Ginger Rogers THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT. Very quietly, I will begin to cry, because too much feeling is coursing through me.

The 1931 sheet music.
Photograph by Lynn Redmile.

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS is a song I’ve had a long relationship with, through my early attachment to Bing Crosby, also because its optimistic lyrics suggest that travail is finite, that recovery is possible . . . if only we are able to envision a happier future. (I am also moved by Eddy Howard’s version where Bennie Morton caresses the melody as only he can.)

But when Danny Tobias looked at his song list last Sunday and called this as the next tune, I did not expect to be in tears. I was. I haven’t heard Jim Lawlor sing frequently enough to expect that he would “get” me as he did, but he did, as did everyone in this performance. Heartfelt, expert, plain, superb. Every note, every turn of phrase or nuance.

Lucky for me, I was sitting close to a doctor, who asked me if I was all right, and I could tearfully nod my head yes. See if you don’t feel emotions coursing through you. And I hope the performance reminds you that you might just “dream your troubles away”:

Dreams do come true, and the transformation from wish to reality can be expressed in music like this.

If you enjoyed this band — a silly rhetorical question, no? — there are more performances to be shared with you as well as this delicious plateful of sounds (where you can also learn more about the Pennsylvania Jazz Society and their upcoming jazz concerts):

May your happiness increase!

YOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS: 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)

Music like this nourishes the soul, so it’s not surprising that many jazz classics are — actually or metaphorically — connected to food. Here are three stirring examples. Dig in!

HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN, in honor of Freddie Keppard:

Albanie Falletta and Arnt Arntzen have fun with BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, thinking of Louis and May Alix:

And Colin’s second foray into that new technology: CLARINET MARMALADE, two ways:

Those are the basic food groups: ingest these portions of joy and you’ll have your hot nourishment for today. And in case you missed the previous spiritual sustenance from that evening, here it is:

and even more:

And — this just in, from Colin, whom I am honored to say is a pal — news of a Father’s Day gig: “It’s myself on cornet and reeds, Ricky Alexander on more reeds, Josh Dunn on guitar (and maybe banjo), and Julian Johnson on drums and washboard. Gonna be doing some hot Jimmie Noone style stuff as well as just a bunch of good old good ones! 1-3 at Freehold in the Park, on the North side of Union Square.” That’s Greenwich Village, New York. Details (and reservations) here.

May your happiness increase!

A DREAM OF COUNTRY LIFE: JAY RATTMAN, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, TAL RONEN (The EarRegulars at The Ear Out, June 6, 2021)

Jay Rattman, Tal Ronen.
Jon-Erik Kellso.
Matt Munisteri.

Another episode in the continuing story of rebirth, resurrection, and joy — through music, played by a community, played for one.

This is such a pretty song by Billy Hill (who wrote THE LAST ROUND-UP) and it’s been sung and played by Bing, Louis, Jim Goodwin, Ray Skjelbred, Marc Caparone, and others who dream. Here, it’s brought to wistful swinging life by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, alto saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass, outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York City, on June 6, 2021.

Go hear some live music. It will reassure you that we are alive, always a good thing.

And if you missed it the first time, here‘s a wild (and wildly gratifying) WILLIE THE WEEPER from this session.

May your happiness increase!

DANNY TOBIAS and the SAFE SEXTET: RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, PAT MERCURI, JOE PLOWMAN, JIM LAWLOR (Pennsylvania Jazz Society, June 13, 2021)

I asked my friend, the most admired Danny Tobias, what he wanted the band name to be for me to write about the session and annotate the videos: quickly, he came up with what you see above. Just another reason to admire him!

From left, Jim, Danny, Randy, and, keeping order, Mike Kuehn.

This was glorious jazz on a Sunday afternoon: a wonderful post-pandemic concert sponsored by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society and presented in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, featuring Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn, Randy Reinhart, trombone and euphonium, Pat Mercuri, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal; Mary Lou Newnam, tenor saxophone (guest star).

The whole band in their Sunday-casual splendor, thanks to photographer Lynn Redmile.

Here are the first four selections from the concert. I apologize (as videographer) for giving Randy less than his due, visually, but he comes through loud and clear.

WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING:

LOUISIANA:

SOLITUDE:

FIDGETY FEET:

What a delightful way to gather with the faithful and celebrate. You should know that the Safe Sextet has a mascot — Clyde Beauregard Redmile-Tobias, and he’s safe, too. In later videos, you will see a wagging tail bottom right: Mark Shane commented on what good time Clyde keeps. No surprise.

“You dog, you!”

Future concerts for the Pennsylvania Jazz Society will be Sunday, July 25: Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society; September 12: Glenn Crytzer Quartet; October 10: Jazz Lobsters Big Band; November 21: Jam Session. All concerts are from 2-4:30 PM at the Dewey Hall, 502 Durham Street, Hellertown, Pennsylvania. Students may attend free; first-timers and PJS members pay $15; non-members, $20.

Here is their Facebook page; here is their webpage.

Immense thanks to Mike Kuehn, Joan Bauer, and Peter Reichlin of the PJS for their kindnesses.

May your happiness increase!

EHUD ASHERIE INVITES US TO COME ALONG (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 16, 2016)

One of the pleasures of (let us say) 2010-2020 in New York City was the many opportunities to hear the brilliant pianist Ehud Asherie play — someone who knew both Bud Powell and Donald Lambert but was utterly himself, always unpredictable, always melodic and swinging. Here, Ehud takes us on a trip around the world, through every kind of pianistic expression from tango to reverie to explosive stride, with FON FON (Ernesto Nazareth), LUSH LIFE (Billy Strayhorn), and SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (Carmen Lombardo):

I don’t know when Ehud will play his next New York gig, but I hope it’s soon: we need his quirky wise art.

May your happiness increase!

THREE MORE FROM A NIGHT BOTH HOT AND SWEET: 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)

“Yeah, man.”

Here is some more of the uplifting music performed on June 10 at the Morris Museum by my hero-friends, purveyors of joy: Colin Hancock, 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.

WHISPERING, with a perfectly idiomatic and swinging vocal by Mike Davis:

Good advice about monogamous high-fidelity: YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT (OR YOU CAN’T SEE MAMA AT ALL):

And Bennie Moten’s EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT, which does:

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s MILENBERG JOYS — live, then on “the wonder of the age,” the new-fangled phonograph:

Above is my ecstatic review of the whole concert, and there’s still more to come. “What a night!” as we say.

May your happiness increase!

HOT SOUNDS AT TWILIGHT: COLIN HANCOCK, MIKE DAVIS, VINCE GIORDANO, TROY ANDERSON, JULIAN JOHNSON, DAN LEVINSON, ALBANIE FALLETTA, ARNT ARNTZEN at the MORRIS MUSEUM (June 10, 2021, Morristown, New Jersey)

Early in the evening: from left, Albanie, Arnt, Dan, Vince, Troy, Colin, Julian, Mike.

It was a wonderful evening, and this post is simply to say so — a review of the Broadway opening the next morning — and to share the joys. The event, to give it its official title, was SOUNDS OF THE JAZZ AGE with COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT, and it was held on the back deck of the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, overseen by the very kind and efficient Brett Messenger.

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. The scope of the program was narrow in time — perhaps 1920-1928 — but transcontinentally and stylistically broad. Arranged passages sat neatly next to explosive hot improvisations; dance-band melodies, “hot dance” rhythms, and small-band ecstasies nestled comfortably against the setting sun as they did in real life Jazz Age dance halls, speakeasies, malt shoppes, and recording studios.

They started off with FIDGETY FEET, with no lesson in sight, except to demonstrate, “We are here to play lively living music,” and they succeeded. Next, Art Hickman’s pretty 1920 standard ROSE ROOM, its origin in San Francisco, which has had a long life, both in its own clothing and as IN A MELLOTONE — displaying a lovely passage scored for two saxophones, in this case Dan and Troy. Someone wandering by might have thought, “This is tea-dance music,” but it had a hot pulse with rocking solos, and the genre-sliding was more than entertaining. From Hickman, Colin moved to the great star of Twenties music — call it and him what you will — Paul Whiteman — for an idiomatic and swinging WHISPERING with a patented crooning chorus by Mike Davis. I know this sentence is unsubtle, but Colin and his Eight made no artificial distinctions between “sweet” music as played by white bands and “hot” music played by their black counterparts, acknowledging without lecturing us that there was no dividing line between the two.

Colin then nodded to the great Twenties phenomenon of recordings of the blues and bent that definition to include a jolly YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT, which is, after all, good advice, if Mama wants all that attention. Bennie Moten’s frolicsome EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT and LOUISIANA, subtle homage to both Whiteman and Beiderbecke, followed — the band hitting on all cylinders, the audience enthusiastic, the sky darkening (as it should) and the stage lighting properly illuminating the players.

I can’t have been the only one in the audience who was hungry (it had been a long ride to Morristown) so I was happy to hear two songs about food, however indirectly: the Keppard-flavored HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN and Louis’ Hot Five I WANT A BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, with hilarious vocals by Albanie and Arnt. Vince sang THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE in a truly hot version (Dan evoked Frank Teschemacher) that summoned up the Austin High Gang. In honor of Red Nichols and the whole tradition of Sam Lanin, there was FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE.

A “Jazz Age” concert typically would end with a lengthy rousing closer — this one took a slightly different turn, with fairly brief (although searing) renditions of MILENBERG JOYS and CLARINET MARMALADE not only played but recorded on the spot on a vintage phonograph — and the records played back on the spot. It was a wonderful demonstration of the new technology, great hot music (we applauded the live rendition, we applauded the record) and wonderful theatre.

I won’t praise every musician — you will hear for yourself — but the patriarchs of Twenties jazz were cheered and inspired by the youngbloods on the stand. And Colin (whose solos were intense and incendiary) found ways to show the depth and breadth of this music, avoiding the overused repertoire (no DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, for one) and sketching in a vast panorama of joyous sounds that moved all around the country and also — without slighting him — said politely, “Louis Armstrong brought his own way to play, but not everyone went in his direction all the time.”

Here’s MILENBERG JOYS, which shows off the band and Colin’s easy scholarship — history made alive and in delighted motion. I’ve edited the video so you at home don’t have to sit through the necessary non-musical portions. What a show!

The Morris Museum had held concerts on the Back Deck through the pandemic, cheers to them, so the singles and couples last night in their lawn chairs had a good deal of space. It was easy for me to imagine the heroic shades of the past — Louis and Jimmy Joy, Art Hickman and Jack Pettis, Red Nichols and Miff Mole, Sam Lanin and Ben Selvin, Ikey Robinson and Kaiser Marshall, George Johnson and Vic Berton, Adrian Rollini and Freddie Keppard, Eva Taylor and Clarence Williams, all the cats from the ODJB and the NORK, Bix and Tram, Bennie Moten and May Alix and a hundred others, comfortable in lawn chairs, grinning their faces off at the living energized evocation of the music they made about a hundred years ago.

“The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”

Were you there to share the joys? I hope so. Bless Colin, Vince, Dan, Troy, Mike, Julian, Albanie, Arnt — the heroes among us — and the enthusiastic audience.

And yes, there will be more videos. But . . . if you want more concerts, you have to leave your house.

May your happiness increase!

HELLO, GREATNESS!

First, some music: STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY as performed by Don Redman’s Orchestra in Geneva, Switzerland, October 27, 1946.  The band is Bobby Williams, Alan Jeffreys, trumpet; Peanuts Holland, trumpet, vocal; Quentin Jackson, Jack Carman, trombone; Tyree Glenn, trombone, vibraphone; Don Redman, alto saxophone, piano, vocal, arranger; Chauncey Haughton, Pete Clarke, alto and baritone saxophone, clarinet; Don Byas, Ray Abrams, tenor saxophone; Billy Taylor, piano; Ted Sturgis, string bass; Buford Oliver, drums; Inez Cavanaugh, vocal: 

The music (in this case featuring Tyree Glenn, Ted Sturgis, Don Byas, and others) is relevant to the pieces of paper below. And for those who would like to hear the whole Geneva concert — happily broadcast on Swiss radio and even more happily, preserved for us seventy-five years later! — here are all the performances:

Now I shall modulate into another key.

As a young jazz fan, I had to decide what variety of souvenir I wanted to take home from an evening’s entertainment.  At one point, I fancied myself a still photographer — with a Canon AE-1 — and I would take as many shots as I’d bought rolls of 35 millimeter film.  That was especially appropriate in the venues where I had learned beforehand that illicit audiotaping would get me thrown out unceremoniously (as in, “We don’t allow that here. Give it to me and please leave”).    

I asked very few musicians for autographs, because I was afraid that they would say, “Was that a cassette recorder I saw in front of you?  Kindly bring it here so that I can smash it with my shoe, if you don’t mind.”  I also felt at the time that asking for a hero’s autograph relegated me to the status of “fan,” where conversation would have been limited.  I could speak to Bennie Morton, but if I’d asked him to sign something, perhaps he would have done so, said a few polite words, and the interchange would have ended.

Eventually I also realized that approaching an artist for their autograph right before a set was ungenerous (“Let me get prepared, let me discuss the first song and the key, or let me get my charts together”) and after a set perhaps more so (“I just gave you my all for 45 minutes; I’m depleted, and want to visit the facilities”) so thrusting a tiny piece of paper in the Idol’s face was not always a kindness.

I must say, though, that in 1971 if I delayed Teddy Wilson for three minutes to ask him to sign my copy of PRES AND TEDDY and send beams of admiration at him, I feel no guilt now, and a prize of mine (thanks to the very dear Mike Burgevin) is an enthusiast’s 1933 autograph book that has a Jack Pettis signature.  So I am not free from such urges.

Many people, however, perhaps with less timidity, have asked for autographs.  Their ease, decades after the fact, results in slips of paper being offered for sale on eBay.  One of the most rewarding sites is “jgautographs” — and here are a few items of unusual interest from a recent auction.

Don Redman’s 1946 orchestra (including Don Byas) that “went to Europe”:

and

and one of its trumpet stars, Peanuts Holland:

another Quentin Jackson signature (he deserves the attention):

our hero, James Rushing, Esquire:

the underrated and superb drummer Kansas Fields:

A souvenir of the 1938 Paul Whiteman orchestra, featuring Charlie Teagarden, Frank Signorelli, and George Wettling, and what looks like a Miff Mole signature squeezed in at the bottom:

Finally, a trio that I would have loved to hear — perhaps at a festival in 1978 — Jo Jones, Milt Hinton, and Ray Bryant:

Holy relics, mingling gratitude, admiration, affection, passing back and forth from artist to happy listeners.

(Postscript: none of these seem mechanical: if you haunt eBay, as I do, you can find what seem like hundreds of signatures by certain famous musicians, and I suspect they sat at a table, as do sports stars, and signed a thousand in an afternoon, which now are for sale. These seem to be signed in real life and under real circumstances, which is a very fine thing.)

May your happiness increase!

RALPH SUTTON, PIANO MASTER (1980)

Ralph Sutton (courtesy of BlueBlackJazz)

The pianist Ralph Sutton, who recorded so expansively for more than fifty years, should be better known. But I suspect that since he was typecast as a particular kind of pianist — a “stride pianist,” which he was, splendidly, he was expected to provide a predictable menu of standard tunes, Fats Waller compositions, and up-tempo dazzlers, and listeners forgot just how superb he was as an improvising musician, a magnificent pianist, and an ensemble player. Although Ralph played with great dramatic range, he led a calm life and his artistry was so consistent that there was little for journalists to fasten on: no personal disasters. Too, there are the deplorable labels affixed to pre-KIND OF BLUE jazz, even by the fans of such music. Unlike his contemporaries, the erudite Dick Hyman and the whimsical Dick Wellstood, Ralph did not expend much energy on “show” or wooing an audience. The performance that follows shows him a craftsman, concerned with little else than the extraordinary sounds and rhythms he could create at the keyboard. But it is a rare document of his art, and since he made no commercially issued recordings in 1980, it is especially valuable: a master at work. Of course, I say wryly, it was recorded for European, not American television.

In the first segment, Ralph plays ECHO OF SPRING (Willie “the Lion” Smith) / ALLIGATOR CRAWL (Fats Waller) / LOVE LIES (Terry Shand) / VIPER’S DRAG — interpolating LULLABY IN RHYTHM (Fats // Clarence Profit) / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE / GIN MILL BLUES (continued in the next segment):

and GIN MILL BLUES (concluded) / EYE OPENER (Bob Zurke):

In a more equitable jazz world, bereft of labels and hierarchies, Sutton would get his due. But then again, so would a thousand other remarkable artists. Do your bit: share this video with your daughter’s piano teacher, your friend who admires Horowitz, and so on. Let’s launch a peaceful Sutton Revolution.

May your happiness increase!