A STAGE FULL OF BRIGHT LIGHTS: WILD BILL DAVISON, BOBBY HACKETT, JIMMY McPARTLAND, BUCK CLAYTON, JIMMY ARCHEY, VIC DICKENSON, GENE SEDRIC, ED HALL, FRANK SIGNORELLI, JOE BUSHKIN, MARIAN McPARTLAND, MILT HINTON, POPS FOSTER, MAX WAYNE, GEORGE WETTLING, JO JONES, TONY SPARGO, LEE WILEY (Town Hall, New York City, April 12, 1952)

 Here’s a vibrant paradox: the musicians who understand themselves deeply know that singularity is the great goal.  Be aware of where you’ve come from, revere your heroes and know the tradition, but be yourself.  At the same time, play well with others: understand that the community of jazz improvisation is sacred, and work for “the comfort of the band,” to quote Baby Dodds.

In this Town Hall concert, from April 12, 1952, that delicate paradox is on display in every performance.  Here’s the roadmap.

This Saturday concert, produced by Bob Maltz, was billed as a farewell party for Wild Bill Davison, who was leaving New York to tour. It was recorded by the Voice of America for broadcast overseas, which may be the source of this copy.  The introduction is by Al “Jazzbo” Collins, with Marian McPartland playing softly underneath his paragraphs:

BLUE SKIES / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU”RE IN LOVE WITH ME / HINDUSTAN Wild Bill Davison, Ed Hall, Jimmy Archey, Frank Signorelli, Pops Foster, George Wettling /

THE LADY IS A TRAMP / SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (Bushkin) – DON’T BLAME ME (Milt) – DINAH (Buck) – HALLELUJAH! – BLUES (Jo) Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones /

CLARINET MARMALADE / DAVENPORT BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES Jimmy McPartland, Vic Dickenson, Gene Sedric, Marian McPartland, Max Wayne, Tony Spargo /

ANY TIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE / STREET OF DREAMS / MANHATTAN / [Roy Haynes mentioned] ‘DEED I DO / I’VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU Lee Wiley, Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones /

Collins jokes and talks to fill time . . .

FIDGETY FEET / SISTER KATE (Vic, vocal) / SWEET GEORGIA BROWN / Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Gene Sedric, Marian McPartland, Max Wayne, George Wettling //

THAT’S A PLENTY (explosively) / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE / SAINTS Davison, Archey, Hall, Signorelli, Foster, Wettling //

Listening to these musicians, at the peak of their expressive powers, I thought of Ruby Braff (in Boston when this concert took place) and the subject of the party, Wild Bill Davison.  Ruby was often cutting about his colleagues, except for half-a-dozen who he held sacred.  Thus, in my hearing, Wild Bill was “that moron.”  But later in life — perhaps in the wonderful conversations he had with Steve Voce, Ruby unwound enough to praise Bill: he “had drama.” 

But my point is not to praise Bill in isolation.  Every musician at this concert has their own drama — Lee Wiley wooing, Vic Dickenson telling stories, Wild Bill taking a hot-jazz-flamethrower to the curtains to see if they would catch fire.  The concert reminds me of a televised production of KING LEAR where every role was filled — gorgeously — by a star actor (Laurence Olivier, John Hurt, Michael Gambon, Leo McKern, Diana Rigg) — and they meshed wonderfully, their reverence for the play and for each other evident.

It also reminds me that there was a time, nearly seventy years ago, where both Milt Hinton and Pops Foster were available for a gig, as were Marian McPartland and Tony Spargo.  A proliferation of riches!  And even if you think, “God.  Another version of FIDGETY FEET, for goodness’ sake?” listen — you’ll be startled out of your preconceptions and hustled into joy.

May your happiness increase!

TRIBUTE TO BIX: DICK SUDHALTER, GEORGE BARNES, JOE VENUTI, MARTY GROSZ, MICHAEL MOORE, RAY MOSCA (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 23, 1975)

Since I’ve been collecting recordings of jazz music in every conceivable form for over fifty years, I don’t always know what I have — which makes for a certain disorganization. (Some people I know have spreadsheets, indices, notebooks of their holdings: not me.) But it also makes for delirious surprises, one of which I will share with you.

The eminent (and generous-spirited) jazz writer and historian Derek Coller was at the 1975 Nice Jazz Festival, an experience I envy. But he also brought along a portable cassette recorder, and sent me copies for me of the tapes he achieved. Wonderful gifts. The sound isn’t recording-studio, and there is talk from enthusiastic fans, but the results are priceless.

Here is the last set of July 23, 1975: Dick Sudhalter, cornet; George Barnes, electric guitar; Joe Venuti, violin; Marty Grosz, guitar; Michael Moore, string bass; Ray Mosca, drums, paying tribute to the dear boy from Davenport, Iowa. Everyone is in wonderful form — even though Joe is characteristically a little overbearing — but the hero of this set is George Barnes, leaping in at wonderfully odd angles, honoring a musician and an inspiration.

JAZZ ME BLUES / SUNDAY [a few measures missing, possibly the tape being turned over] / BLUE RIVER (Sudhalter-Grosz) / SWEET SUE (Sudhalter out) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / SAN //

Somewhere, Bix is grinning, because these noble creatures had the right idea: follow their impulses, and who knows what’s coming next? — rather than bowing down to the past. I hope you agree.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIMEHOUSE BLUES, showing off Jonathan Beshay:

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

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

May your happiness increase!

BRAGGIN’ IN BRASS WITH The EarRegulars and Friends: JON-ERIK KELLSO, BILL ALLRED, MATT MUNISTERI, PAT O’LEARY, GORDON AU, ANDREW STEPHENS, JOHN ALLRED, HARVEY TIBBS, JOAN CODINA, STEVE BELIFUSS, LOU SALCEDO (The Ear Out, October 17, 2021)

When people ask, “Michael, are you ever planning to move out of New York?” and I say, “No,” this is one of my answers. This happens elsewhere, I know, but it doesn’t happen like this. This love-in-swing-out took place at the close of a Sunday afternoon session by the EarRegulars at The Ear Out, their summer home, on October 17, 2021. Here’s a still photograph of the action . . . and it doesn’t even include all the glorious people playing on the final song, which was Charlie Shavers’ UNDECIDED. I assure you that indecision was not the order of the day! There’s also a brief detour into Herschel Evans’ line on the same chords, DOGGIN’ AROUND: the EarRegulars are a pet-friendly band, you know.

The basic EarRegulars quartet that Sunday was Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bill Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass. But by the end of this afternoon session, the quartet had become an eleven-piece brass fantasy: five trombones, three trumpets, two guitars, one string bass in splendid swinging harmony.

I’ll list them in solo order: Munisteri (intro); John Allred, trombone; Andrew Stephens, trumpet; Bill Allred, trombone; Gordon Au, trumpet; Joan Codina, trombone; Steve Bleifuss, trombone; Lou Salcedo, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Pat O’Leary; then a chorus of DOGGIN’ AROUND, based on the same chord changes; Matt Munisteri to finish it all off neatly.

My feelings, then and now, are astonishment, delight, and gratitude. You understand.

May your happiness increase!

TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, and the GRAND STREET STOMPERS CHASE THE GRINCH AWAY (Chelsea Table and Stage, December 3, 2021)

I won’t dignify the Grinch by posting his portrait here: there’s enough negativity in the world and you can find his grim visage by yourself. I prefer happier scenes, such as the ones that occurred when Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers brought their “Holiday Stomp” to the new Chelsea Table and Stage (26th Street, off Seventh Avenue, in New York City).

Tamar Korn, voice and so much more; Rob Adkins, string bass; Matt Koza, reeds; Nick Russo, guitar and banjo; Gordon Au, trumpet, leader, composer, arranger; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Shane Del Robles, drums. [Not portrayed here, Molly Ryan, vocal.] Photograph by Ben Guthrie.
Gordon Au. Photograph by Neal Siegal.

Late in the evening, Gordon — courageous among equally courageous colleagues — called for a song that Tamar and the band had only done once before, at the sound check, a song with yards of vaudeville-patter or pre-rap lyrics, YOU’RE A MEAN ONE, MISTER GRINCH. Our heroic pal Tamar bravely essayed it with all the hilarious and endearing theatricality she possesses, which is (as they say) plenty. It took a few seconds for the performance to right itself, but it’s not the successes, instead, the recoveries that count so deeply.

I was there with my camera, and shot a video of this performance — this priceless performance (which Tamar has given me permission to share with you) from the table where I and the OAO were sitting. Thus, you get a diner’s -eye view, with heads in the way. But it has a certain “you are there” quality. And we were.


Gordon told me that the venue itself had created four videos from an overhead angle, and — after seeing their creation — I insisted on using it also. Think of it as an alternative reality, quite wonderful. And, as he pointed out, we now have four beginnings to experience.

Tamar sings, “Wish me luck!” at the start, but it’s clear that neither she nor the Grand Street Stompers need it. If you would like to learn more about them, you can of course follow them on Facebook or visit their website here. They have created three CDs and two digital sessions (the latter available at Bandcamp).

There will be more to come from this night at the Chelsea Table and Stage: I thank them all, four times.

Someone told me that the Grinch was last seen on Seventh Avenue, stuffing himself into an Uber, fleeing as fast as he can, destination unknown.

May your happiness increase!

BRINGING THE GROOVE INDOORS: ARNT ARNTZEN, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO at Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats (Sunday, December 5, 2021)

Look at those faces: three happy creative people, making music, spreading joy for a crowd enjoying their eggs and mimosas to an inspired soundtrack. That’s Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats on a Sunday brunch-afternoon, and the three swing Muses are Arnt Arntzen, banjo, voice, and occasional comedy; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, voice. They’re that wondrous thing, a working band. Arnt calls them ARNIE AND HIS RHYTHM, but I think they need a more exalted name, like SPLENDID MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROMULGATION OF JOY, although that’s too long to fit on a gig announcement. DELEGATES OF PLEASURE is also in the running. But I digress.

Here’s some joy.

When I walked into Giovanni’s last Sunday, this trio was concluding their first song, a hot number. I said hello, was taken to a seat, and began to set up my camera while hearing Arnt say to Danny and Vince, “Do you know THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU”? — that very heartfelt Ray Noble ballad that “bands” don’t always play. I was very excited and managed to begin filming about one-quarter through this very tender offering:

Romance of a different sort (“I have bought / the home and ring / and everything!”) as Vince sings and plays MARGIE:

Something very sweet — SUGAR by Arnie — “She’s vaccinated!”:

MUSKRAT RAMBLE, so often smudged, here with all its different strains treated with hot reverence:

And finally (for this set) my national anthem, WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, rendered with love, not caricature:

What a glorious group: harmony not only of notes, but of spirit.

But wait! There’s more!

Arnt has just announced a Thursday-night residency for this trio and other versions of it, at Barbes in Brooklyn: on December 30, 10 PM to midnight, he and brother Evan will play together; on January 6, the trio above, from 7 to 9:30; on January 13, the multi-talented Colin Hancock and Tal Ronen will join Arnt; and more to come. I’m looking forward to this and hope some JAZZ LIVES readers will join me. Without being too didactic, venues with music but without audiences soon drop the music: as you know.

For now, enjoy the pleasures above.

May your happiness increase!

MIKE LIPSKIN PLAYS AND TALKS!

I first met the piano master / historian / record producer / raconteur Mike Lipskin in California in 2012, but he had been a hero of mine since I bought this record in 1971. Mike has studied the stride Ancestors but knows how to go his own ways within the tradition: he’s the very antithesis of the static copyist, and he follows his own — often surprising — impulses.

A few days ago I was nosing around my cassette archives (yes, savor the antiquity of that phrase) and to my delight, this appeared — a gift from my friend, the late John L. Fell, who recorded the first forty-five minutes of a 1987 conversation-recital by Mike, speaking to the amiably well-informed Phil Elwood. It’s a rewarding interlude in many ways. And here’s the bill of fare: NUMB FUMBLIN’ / I WISH I WERE IN LOVE AGAIN / SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY / MULE WALK / SWEET SAVANNAH SUE / NOTHING MISSING NOW (ML original, vocal) / AM I BLUE (ML) //

And since Mike is happy and well and striding and making jokes, he will be playing Mezzrow in New York City (163 West Tenth Street) on Tuesday, December 28th, from 10:30 to 11:30, with Ricky Alexander. . . a delightful hour in store for us.

May your happiness increase!

A GREAT TEACHER MOVES ON: BARRY HARRIS (1929-2021)

The pianist / composer / educator / shepherd Barry Harris, who just left this temporal plane a few days shy of his ninety-second birthday, understood many things deeply. But one of the finest was his unspoken acceptance of his role as teacher and guide — not to one classroom of students, but to thousands. He knew — without words, but by embodying it — that a great teacher’s goal is to show their students how to be themselves teachers, in their own particular fashion, continuing to teach others as they learn themselves.

Photograph by Melanie Futorian.

I didn’t have the good fortune to know Barry, to visit one of his classes, to commune with him: I think I came along late in his time, where he might have told me he had better things to do than to sit and talk about himself. But I know those who drank from the Harris springs and came away transformed and inspired, and when his name came up in conversation, their faces gleamed with love and wonder and appreciation.

There is no better tribute I can offer than Heleen Schuttevaer’s loving short film, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BARRY HARRIS, which premiered in December 2020:

Ordinarily, I would say of such a person, “Barry Harris has become music,” but that would be an impudence: he always was and will continue to be. We are so fortunate to have lived in his world.

May your happiness increase!

EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOR: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, October 5, 2021)

This neat little band has been attracting fans and friends on early Tuesday evenings at Swing 46 (349 West 46th Street, New York City) for more than a few months . . . and it deserves to have its names up in lights. Leader Dan Block (tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet) gives equal time to the wonderful Gabrielle Stravelli (vocals), Michael Kanan (piano), and Pat O’Leary (string bass). Here they are — about two months ago — tenderly moseying through the Waller-Razaf AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — which is truly a love song about fidelity and joyous discovery — at a tempo that makes it emotionally meaningful, rather than a race to the outchorus:

What lovely playful sounds! And in their three sets on a Tuesday night, this splendid quartet creates marvel after marvel. You mean to say you could have visited them at West 46th Street and haven’t . . . ?

May your happiness increase!

DICKENSON PLAYS ELLINGTON: VIC DICKENSON, EARL HINES, HARLEY WHITE, EDDIE GRAHAM (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 20, 1975)

Yes, Vic Dickenson. You know, the “Dixieland” trombonist known for his “wry humor.”

A small sweet surprise: Vic Dickenson, trombone; Earl Hines, piano; Harley White, string bass; Eddie Graham, drums — playing an Ellington ballad, perhaps THE Ellington ballad. So many writers made so much of Vic’s “dirty” style, his growls, that they forgot his deep heart, his deep feelings for pretty songs . . . his love of melody, of pure sounds. And although no one was wise enough to ask Vic to make a recording of Ellington and Strayhorn, he called IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD as his feature night after night when I saw him.

The first thing an attentive listener might notice is Vic’s slowing-down the tempo: he’s not about to be rushed into baroque Hines flourishes. A stately yet passionate exposition of the melody, growing more fervent in his second chorus. Then a coda-cadenza, rhapsodic and bluesy all at once. A masterpiece from the Grande Parade du Jazz at Nice, France, performed on July 20, 1975.

Hank O’Neal told me that one of his dream projects was to record Vic with strings. Such a pity that didn’t happen. Listen to I GOT IT BAD again and realize that, as a ballad player, Vic is at the level of Ben and Pres, Hodges and his dear friend Bobby Hackett. Thank goodness we have these four minutes of Vic, quietly reminding us of what he did and could do: wordlessly touch our hearts without making a fuss of doing so.

May your happiness increase!

A JAM SESSION AT SQUIRREL’S HOUSE: RED NICHOLS, JOE RUSHTON, JACK GARDNER, GEORGE KENYON, JACK HOWE, BILL PRIESTLEY, PHIL ATWOOD (Evanston, Illinois, November 16, 1951)

Edwin “Squirrel” Ashcraft was a pianist and jazz fancier and eyewitness in the Twenties: you can read his first-hand recollections of Jack Pettis, Bix, Bud Freeman, the Wolverines, and more, in a 1961 interview he did for the Tulane University archives. And if you search this blog, you’ll find a series of video interviews I did with Squirrel’s friend and life-student, Hank O’Neal. But from the early Thirties on, he and his wife Jane opened their Evanston, Illinois home to their jazz-musician friends, who brought their horns and voices. (In the 1940 census, it’s listed as 1144 Asbury Avenue, for those who wish to make pilgrimages.)

Early on, the sessions got recorded on disc; later, their friend John Steiner used his tape machine. The collective fun is evident from the first note — their expertise, too, as no one misses a key change. And the easy friendship of artists who aren’t competitive but communal is also immediately apparent. True, it isn’t a polished recording session; there’s the hiss of much-copied tape; many of the performances are incomplete. But the pleasure of artists playing for themselves and a small convivial audience is precious. Red isn’t always perceived as such a lyrical player, but hear him — and his friends — blossom in easy, romantic fashion throughout.

The players are Nichols, cornet; Joe Rushton, bass sax (clarinet on SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH); Jack Gardner, piano; George Kenyon, mellophone; Jack Howe, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Bill Priestley, guitar; Phil Atwood, string bass. EASTER PARADE / INDIANA / OH, BABY! / THE GIRL FRIEND / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (excerpt) / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / LOUISIANA / BALLIN’ THE JACK / SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH / LIMEHOUSE BLUES / SUGAR / TEA FOR TWO (one and two) / AFTER YOU’VE GONE (incomplete) //. The original tape is thanks to John L. Fell, whose source may have been Joe Boughton. Other sessions at Squirrel’s were issued on a series of ten-inch lps; this one wasn’t. I don’t know if Nichols was still under contract to Capitol Records or he thought this recording too loose for the general public. But it sounds so delightful:

And, no, the vault of joyous treasures isn’t about to be emptied any time soon. Here’s to collectors like my dear departed friend John L. Fell, who showed me that music is meant to be shared with those who love it just as much. . . .that the other side, the more important side of “collecting,” was “giving.”

On the subject of giving, the reigning Nichols authority, Stephen Hester (who, with his father, has done beautiful deep research on all things Red) sent me this photograph a few minutes ago — Red and Joe Rushton at the session (note Red’s cloth mute!). Thank you, Stephen!

May your happiness increase!

EXTRA HELPINGS OF JOY: JARED ENGEL’S NEW ANGLES (Part One) October 30, 2021

Thanks again to New York City Department of Cultural Affairs for the #CityArtistCorps program, making this concert possible. But first, thanks to the surging creative playful musicians who shared their art with us.

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

Here’s the first part of three. Let joy be unconfined!

For Hoagy, for Louis, in the name of jubilation, JUBILEE:

Then, a lunar pairing featuring the wonderful singer Vanisha-Arleen Gould, NO MOON AT ALL:

and THAT OLD DEVIL MOON:

Inventive music, played with skill and spice in a lively space for an appreciative audience: if you know of a better universe . . .

More to come.

May your happiness increase!

HEAT UP THE CORNER WHERE YOU ARE, CONTINUED: ARNT ARNTZEN, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO at GIOVANNI’S BROOKLYN EATS (October 24, 2021)

Three lyrical cats making great music al fresco in Brooklyn, New York: Arnt Arntzen, banjo, vocal; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, lowboy cymbal, vocal. Those venerable pop classics feel fresh yet familiar in their hands.

I’M CONFESSIN’:

STARDUST:

WABASH BLUES:

As the weather gets colder, the trio has moved inside. And the food is good.

May your happiness increase!

2 ORIGINALS + 1: EDDY DAVIS, SCOTT ROBINSON, PETE MARTINEZ, JESSE GELBER, DEBBIE KENNEDY at The Cajun (June 7, 2006)

THE CAJUN, by Barbara Rosene. Private collection, New York.

The past isn’t dead, as long as the evidence survives. Two days ago I posted a rollicking CIRIBIRIBIN by the group named above plus John Bucher, cornet. Here is another long-buried souvenir from Wednesday, June 7, 2006, performed at the Cajun Restaurant, New York City. Two originals and an outchorus, for those noting details. Eddy Davis, leader, banjo, vocals, composer; Scott Robinson, C-Melody saxophone; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Jesse Gelber, piano; Debbie Kennedy, string bass: THE LAUGHING BLUES / AN IDEA FROM MARIAN / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS. I’ve left in all the conversation — at the end of the night — because to edit it out would be painful. Pretend that you were there, no, that you are there. Why not?

May your happiness increase!

WITH DISPATCH AND VIGOR: MARTY GROSZ and FRANK CHACE and FRIENDS, 1951

Marty Grosz, young, spiffy.

One of Marty Grosz’s favorite vaudeville bits is to announce the next number, and say “. . . performed with dispatch and vigor,” and then motion to two musicians near him, saying, “That’s Dispatch, and that’s Vigor.” How old it is I don’t know, but it still provokes a laugh from me and the audience. (The expression goes back to the eighteenth century and before: it crops up in a letter from George Washington, which would please Marty if he doesn’t already know it.)

Perhaps the earliest recording we have of Marty (then playing a four-string guitar) and his miraculous colleague Frank Chace dates from 1951, issued on a limited edition 10″lp by THE INTENSELY VIGOROUS JAZZ BAND. The personnel is John Dengler, cornet; Marty Ill, trombone; Frank Chace, clarinet; Hal Cabot, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Stan Bergen, drums. Princeton, New Jersey, May 1951. I have a copy here somewhere, but it proves elusive. From what I remember of the liner notes, Marty and Frank were ringers, added to the Princeton students’ band of the time.

Frank Chace, young, ferociously intense.

Through the good offices of the very generous collector Hot Jazz 78rpms — who shares marvels regularly on his YouTube channel — I can offer you all of this rather grainy but certainly precious disc. But before you leap into auditory splendor, may I caution you: not everyone on this session is at the same level, but it would be wrong to give it only a passing grade as “semi-pro college Dixieland.” Close listening will reveal subtleties, even in the perhaps overfamiliar repertoire. Marty, Frank, and John shine. And the three Princetonians, none of whom went on to jazz fame, play their roles. With dispatch and vigor.

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:

BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (a memorable Chace chorus):

THE CHARLESTON:

I FOUND A NEW BABY:

THE SHEIK OF ARABY (my favorite):

BASIN STREET BLUES:

AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:

and, yes, WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN with some of its original luster intact:

Intense, vigorous, and joyous too. And if you hear echoes of Eddie, Charles Ellsworth, Bix, and their friends, that’s not a bad thing.

May your happiness increase!

A HOT WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN CHELSEA, FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: EDDY DAVIS, JOHN BUCHER, SCOTT ROBINSON, PETE MARTINEZ, JESSE GELBER, DEBBIE KENNEDY at The Cajun, New York City (June 7, 2006)

The scene: The Cajun, painting by Barbara Rosene. In private collection.
The star: Eddy Davis, banjoist, singer, composer, mischief-maker.

I don’t remember details about this particular Wednesday night at the Cajun — which was soon to close to make way for a high-rise apartment building. But my digital recorder stands in for any gaps in my memory, providing wonderful evidence of what happened more than fifteen years ago. Here is a romping sample — CIRIBIRIBIN, suggested by cornetist John Bucher, sitting in for a set with Eddy, Pete Martinez, clarinet (subbing for Orange Kellin); Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Jesse Gelber, piano (subbing for Conal Fowkes); Debbie Kennedy, string bass. It wasn’t “Dixieland”; it was more an evocation of the sleeves-rolled-up music one heard on Fifty-Second Street, at Eddie Condon’s, a year or so later at The Ear Inn: loose, friendly, playful, expert but hiding its expertise. I think it’s a memorable nine minutes, and when I first unearthed this disc, more than one computer refused to transfer it, so I played it more than a dozen times in hopes that I could vault over the barrier. I loved it more each time, and I hope you will share my enthusiasm.

The building is gone; some of the musicians have moved to other neighborhoods, but the sounds they made and the emotions they evoke are so durable as to be timeless.

May your happiness increase!

AN HOUR OF JOY with THE SECOND GEORGE BARNES QUARTET: GEORGE BARNES, DICK HYMAN, GEORGE DUVIVIER, JO JONES, RUBY BRAFF, PETER DEAN (Town Hall”Interlude,” May 23,1973)

Yes, almost fifty years ago. The admission price was $1.75, and you could buy drinks at the bar from 5 PM on. This Wednesday “pre-dinner” concert series ran from 5:30 to 6:30 or perhaps a few minutes over, and it was indeed a wonderful interlude. This concert was advertised as the George Barnes Quartet, with Dick Hyman, piano; George Duvivier, string bass; and Jo Jones, drums — more than enough bliss for anyone, and the two guest stars [Peter Dean, incidental singing and ukulele; Ruby Braff, cornet] made for even more fun.

A little history: in 1972, George had recorded for Harry Lim’s Famous Door label as the Second George Barnes Quartet (with Milt Hinton and Hank Jones in for part). Alexandra Barnes Leh, daughter of George and Evelyn and erudite creator of the George Barnes Legacy Collection, told me, hearing this tape, “They were booked for this concert before Dad and Ruby decided to put together their own quartet for Newport…and Dad asked Ruby to join these festivities because, by May 23, they’d made their decision, and had been rehearsing with Wayne Wright and John Giuffrida.” (She was at the concert also: a pity we didn’t get to say hello!)

What follows is what I recorded from the first row, and a blissful souvenir of energized music led by the playful genius of the electric guitar, George Barnes: MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (Barnes, Hyman, Duvivier, Jo) / FUNKY BLUES / THOU SWELL / HARLEM STRUT (Hyman, solo) / OOH, THAT KISS (Barnes, Ruby, Hyman, Duvivier, Jo) / I’M NUTS ABOUT SCREWY MUSIC (Peter Dean, ukulele and vocal, for Ruby) / BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? (Dean) / I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER (Dean) / DING DONG DADDY (Dean) / ALMOST-CLOSING BLUES (everyone) / JUST YOU, JUST ME (ditto) / WHERE’S FREDDIE? (ditto) //

Great joys, surprising, witty, and moving all at once. New York still offers musical delights with an open hand, but an assemblage of these heroes will not come again.

May your happiness increase!

COLEMAN HAWKINS CONTINUES TO SOAR (with BENNY CARTER, GEORGE CHISHOLM, JIMMY WILLIAMS, FREDDY JOHNSON, RAY WEBB, LEN HARRISON, ROBERT MONTMARCHE: The Hague, Netherlands, August 18, 1937)

Coleman Hawkins’ birthday was the 21st of November. Although he’s no longer here to celebrate with us, we continue to celebrate him. He was the tenor saxophonist before other musicians had figured out ways to make that horn an effective part of a jazz ensemble, and — even more tellingly — a compelling solo voice. And then he blazed a path for forty-five years.

Two weeks ago, at the Monday-night Zoom meeting of the Hot Club of New York, our friend-scholar Matthew Rivera played the issued take of MY BUDDY — several times — with the affectionate reverence and admiration it deserves. But the band, this wonderful mix of Americans and Europeans, recorded it three times, and some members had never heard the alternate takes.

I want to fill that gap here, and am also offering the two takes of PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY, a sweet rouser of a whimsical-romantic appeal (these versions are instrumental, so you won’t hear the winsome question, “Don’t I look familiar to you?” and the rest of the chipper lyrics by Ray Klages and Jack Meskill).

The band was led by Hawkins’ friend and colleague, the masterful Benny Carter, who played trumpet, alto saxophone, and clarinet; also joining in the swing were Freddy Johnson, piano; George Chisholm, trombone; Jimmy Williams, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Ray Webb, guitar; Len Harrison, string bass; Robert Montmarche, drums — all of this recorded in the Netherlands for Decca / Vocalion on August 18, 1937.

A word about “alternate takes.” I gather that the term was first used in film production.) I suspect that the recording executives, having such a band in their studios, were ready to say — even if a performance was excellent — “Let’s try another.” Or it might have been Carter himself. One of the musicians might have said, “I’d like another try at that: I wasn’t happy with my solo.” The listener will notice on this session that the soloists follow some of the same general path from take to take, but the variations are fascinating, particularly on MY BUDDY, where the general looseness is more prevalent from one take to the next.

Exuberant, inventive, ingenious playing on all five performances. And we hear Hawkins and Carter plunging into their solos with fervor and exactitude, followed closely behind by Freddy Johnson. Let us also praise Benny’s wondrous trumpet playing! He may have been responsible for the little but telling arranging touches, or they may have been “head arrangements,” invented on the spot, but they give these performances shape and focus. And consider — in this era of performances with no time limit — how much music these people created in three-minutes-and-change. Two players sharing a thirty-two bar chorus (a “split chorus”) makes so much eloquent compression possible.

PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY (master take):

and the alternate take:

Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY (master take):

The first alternate:

The second alternate:

Finally, for the detail-minded, a few words about the presumed sequence of performances and record-keeping. It would be natural to count #1 and #2 as the first and second performances created, but those official designations might only be ways of noting first and second choice, by the musicians or the record-company people. But the music is what matters, and it is happily timeless.

If you haven’t checked out the Hot Club of New York (the link is above), you will enjoy it — timeless music in a community of people enjoying it, every Monday night from 7-10 PM.

May your happiness increase!

“LIVE AND LIVELY” (Part Three): BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, LOU FORESTIERI, FRANKLIN SKEETE, GEORGE HAMILTON (Detroit, August 30, 1969) — and MR. HACKETT MEETS MR. SHAVERS (CBS-TV, New York City, July 27, 1968)

This is the third segment of music broadcast from “Cabaret La Boheme,” atop Detroit’s Hotel Ponchartrain, featuring Bobby Hackett, cornet-trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Lou Forestieri, piano; Franklin Skeete, string bass; George Hamilton, drums. I’ve been able to present two one-hour live programs (with commercials edited out, I assume) first preserved by Jim Taylor.

First, the end of the August 30 broadcast, with two songs from the Great American Songbook and two jazz classics, then a program broadcast on CBS-TV, “Dial ‘M’ for Music,” hosted by Father Norman J. O’Connor, and featuring Bobby and Charlie Shavers — two players who crossed paths thirty years earlier. The music is superb, the little snippets of talk revealing and genuine. But two small mysteries remain: why weren’t Bobby and Charlie encouraged to play more duets? And I have no information about the three-piece rhythm section, which could have been Bobby’s at the time or Charlie’s (Ray and Tommy Bryant, Oliver Jackson) or studio musicians. But the music is a find: perhaps some of my readers saw this program live on CBS?

Bobby and Vic Dickenson, Lou Forestieri, Franklin Skeete, George Hamilton in Detroit: THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU (Vic) / ST. LOUIS BLUES / SPEAK LOW / BOURBON STREET PARADE // Bobby and Charlie Shavers, rhythm section unidentified: CBS-TV, “DIAL M FOR MUSIC” – Father Norman J. O’Connor, host: BLUES (BH-CS) / SAVOY (BH) / SWING THAT MUSIC (BH) / ST. LOUIS BLUES (CS) / NATURE BOY (CS) / INDIANA (CS, vocal) / Charlie and Bobby talk / UNDECIDED (BH) / BERNIE’S TUNE (BH-CS) //

Thank goodness for people with tape recorders and other such contrivances; thank goodness for the musicians who create beauty that never ages.

And just because I never see such things, here’s Charlie’s autograph from 1953, presumably from a JATP tour:

May your happiness increase!

“LIVE AND LIVELY” (Part Two): BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, LOU FORESTIERI, FRANKLIN SKEETE, GEORGE HAMILTON (Detroit, August 23 and 30, 1969)

And how did you spend your Saturday evening?

In September 1969, I was entering my senior year in high school, and my parents would not have encouraged a trip to Detroit . . . but through the marvels of ancient and modern technology, I can be there now, and hope you would like to join me. (I did get to hear Bobby and Vic in New York a few years later, blessedly.)

Bobby, Vic, Lou Forestieri, piano; Franklin Skeete, string bass; George Hamilton, drums, were concluding a two-month run (imagine that!) at the glamorous Cabaret La Boheme, twenty-five stories in the sky, atop the Hotel Ponchartrain in downtown Detroit. And their “Saturday night dancing parties” were broadcast over WJR, “the goodwill station,” and taken down off the air by the late Jim Taylor. Yesterday I posted forty-five minutes of music by this band; here’s a second serving.

SWEET LORRAINE / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING (broadcast close) / August 30, 1969: TIN ROOF BLUES / CARAVAN / ALONE (Vic) / SATIN DOLL / THE LOOK OF LOVE (rhythm section) / THAT’S A-PLENTY / IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD (a small compact gem) / JUST YOU, JUST ME / HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Noralisa / MY FUNNY VALENTINE / THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU (Vic) (incomplete) // (I will share the conclusion of this broadcast shortly.)

Think of being able to turn on your radio and hear such music live, or, better yet, to get dressed up (appropriate for Saturday night) and hear it at close range.

May your happiness increase!

“LIVE AND LIVELY” (Part One): BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, LOU FORESTIERI, FRANKLIN SKEETE, GEORGE HAMILTON (Detroit, August 23, 1969)

Care to dance, or just listen?

Bobby and Vic, circa 1969-70: photographer unknown.

What follows may seem almost inconceivable to musicians and listeners in 2021, but it was possible to have a two-month gig playing lyrical jazz in a posh downtown hotel, it was possible that Saturday nights the music would be broadcast without gimmicks to a radio audience, and — even better — we could hear it now, more than fifty years later. I present forty-five minutes of the “Bobby Hackett Quartet with Vic Dickenson,” featuring Lou Forestieri, piano; Franklin Skeete, string bass; George Hamilton, drums. And just so that you know Rod Serling is not in charge of this alternate universe, here is an advertisement in the Detroit Jewish News (July 4, 1969) to prove it:

A number of these broadcasts were recorded off-the-air by enthusiast Jim Taylor, and some of the music made its way to me — circa 1975 — through the late British trumpeter and collector Roy Bower. My forty-five year-old cassette has held up beautifully, and it would be an understatement to say that this music has also. As the genial announcer says, “It’s live and lively!” From twenty-five stories up, it’s our “Saturday Evening Dancing Party,” broadcast on radio station WJR, Saturday, August 23, 1969.

TIN ROOF BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / JA-DA / ON THE BEACH AT WAIKIKI / MORE THAN YOU KNOW (Vic) / EXACTLY LIKE YOU / announcer calls Bobby “Buddy” / THE NEARNESS OF YOU / SUNRISE, SUNSET (rhythm section only) / BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? / BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU (Vic) / FIDGETY FEET / SWEET LORRAINE (incomplete) //

This is the first forty-five minute segment: more is on the way. Don’t they sound wonderful?

May your happiness increase!

THE PATIENT PURSUIT OF BEAUTY: JOE WILDER PLAYS A BALLAD (June 2008)

What is a trumpet (flugelhorn, trombone, and so on) after all except an unforgiving collection of metal tubing through which an idealist propels warm vibrating air? But Joe Wilder could make this hardware-store-in-a-velvet case sing with the delicate intensity of the most touching singer, emotive and expert at once. I had heard him on recordings, but did not meet him until 2004, and it is true, as Roswell Rudd told me, “You play your personality.” Joe’s personality was a gracious warm embrace: of the melody, of the possibility of song, of the audience — and everyone felt it. Here Joe is warmly accompanied by Steve Ash, piano; Yasushi Nakamura, string bass; Marion Felder, drums. The occasion was a “Harlem in the Himalayas” concert organized by Loren Schoenberg, held at the Rubin Museum in New York City in June 2008. I was in the first or second row with my digital recorder, and you can hear the result now. Such beauty:

He was the most rare of gentlemen, and it was a deep privilege to know him, for he greeted the most casual acquaintance as a new dear friend, in the most genuine way. And every note was a friend as well.

May your happiness increase!