“THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL”: YAALA BALLIN SINGS IRVING BERLIN (CHRIS FLORY, MICHAEL KANAN, ARI ROLAND: SteepleChase)

As they say, “I’m a fan.”  Not only of the wonderful, completely-herself singer Yaala Ballin, but of guitarist Chris Flory, pianist Michael Kanan, string bassist Ari Roland . . . and that Israel Baline fellow, Americanized to Irving Berlin, gleaming on a splendid new CD.

Here’s a quick video-audio tour:

and — to support the title of this post:

I can’t get enough — Yaala truly improvises! — here she is with Michael, last Valentine’s Day, telling the Ballin – Baline story in a few words:

That should convince anyone that this is music to purchase, to treasure, to share.  But a few words.

Berlin himself is — like some stocks — disgracefully undervalued.

His music has been perceived for so long as well-behaved.  No sudden shocks of the sort you find in Hart’s or Porter’s lyrics; he doesn’t always aim for the arching melodies of Kern.  Berlin’s curse is that, like Bing Crosby, he manages so deftly to appear simple.  “I could write a song as good as that.”  But you didn’t, we must point out.  Berlin can be sassy and witty: “Be careful, it’s my heart.  It’s not my watch you’re holding, it’s my heart.”  And how many of us know his arch but tender FOOLS FALL IN LOVE?  But his great strength is in his apparent plainness: the melodies that sound as if you could pick them out on the piano with one finger, the lyrics that sound like casual speech.  Of course his songs have “become part of the cultural landscape,” but that is why they get taken for granted.  Hear the singer stride into BLUE SKIES or CHEEK TO CHEEK and we may be forgiven for thinking, to quote Sammy Cahn, “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.”  It’s easy to regard Berlin the same way one might look at the two slices of toast that accompany our eggs at the diner.  Familiar, not essential.  But his music is lit from within by a depth of feeling that makes his songs expressions of dear truths.  Think of HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN, that most passionate declaration of love couched entirely in questions, decades before JEOPARDY.

And — if we stop to listen to his songs with fresh attention, they sparkle with gentle daring.

Gentle daring also characterizes Yaala Ballin’s singing.  When I listen to her, I always wish I had a very astute companion next to me to whom I could say, “Did you hear what she just did with that tone, that pause, that phrase?” She is incapable of delivering the simplest line in a formulaic way.  Her gliding phrasing, so musical, is a kind of lively quirky speech.  A minute hesitation here, a startling rush there: she’s not locked in by the 1-2-3-4 although she keeps lovely time and swings from the start.  Her slides from one note to another summon up instrumental masters Vic Dickenson and Ben Webster.  She is a magnificently subversive actress, because we never feel that she is acting.  As you hear in the examples above, she is a quiet risk-taker.  You don’t come to one of Yaala’s songs on this CD and think, “Wow, she painted everything bright orange and nailed a chair to the ceiling for effect,” rather it’s as if a sly artist has moved one vase and two bowls in the room and everything is wonderfully improved.  Hear her second chorus of HOW MANY TIMES?  Or THIS YEAR’S KISSES, always thought of as Property of Billie Holiday — Yaala and Michael Kanan, in their first rubato duet chorus, say kindly to the Lady, “We bow low to you, but we have our own ways of getting that feeling” — rueful feeling with swing but not needing capital letters.

It would be cruel to not share it with you:

Describing Yaala’s co-equals (it would be demeaning to call them “accompanists”) — Michael Kanan, Chris Flory, Ari Roland — I find myself in the nicest critical quandary.  Are they a subtle muscular twenty-first century Nat Cole trio?  No, I think, they are the 1940 Basie band in portable form.  The tracks that began with brief instrumental introductions brought happiness from the first notes.  And their approach mixes respect and innovation.  Singers have occasionally taken Berlin very slowly: here, REMEMBER, HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? SAY IT ISN’T SO, and BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART are taken at walking tempos, stripping away decades of melodrama to reveal the strong structures beneath.  Several of the songs have unexpected rhythmic underpinnings, adding freshness: for the first time ever, I was able to put Astaire aside while hearing CHANGE PARTNERS.

And the CD sounds the way these four people sound in person, so I had the dreamy sensation of having Yaala, Michael, Chris, and Ari in my living room.  Thanks to Chris Sulit and Nils Winther for making this happen.

The CD is deliciously varied: the compact performances feel just right, completely satisfying in their old-fashioned refusal to sprawl.  Little arranging touches — Yaala in duet with each of the players, split choruses and other variations — make this a splendid tasting menu.  I kept returning to some of the songs, as if it was too difficult to let go of the sensations they had evoked until I’d heard them three or four times.  I hope for a yard-length CD series of YAALA BALLIN SINGS THE __________ SONGBOOK.  (I vote for Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, but that’s just me.)

When I had finished my first hearing of the CD, I felt as if I had been given great gifts.  And then I played it again.  Deprive yourself of such pleasures at your own peril.  The disc and its digital contents are available in the usual places and the usual ways.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

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MUSICAL SOUVENIRS FROM THEIR TRIP TO EASTBOURNE, UK: BILLY BUTTERFIELD and DICK WELLSTOOD in CONCERT (October 1986)

Here is a lengthy and rewarding concert performance — piano solos, trumpet and piano duos — by two of the great explorers of jazz, two exuberant risk-takers whose work, singly and together, has a glowing playful intensity. Listening to Billy and Dick once again, I’m struck by their energetic unpredictability . . . I’ve heard them in many contexts over several decades, and I still can’t predict with certainty what the next phrase will be, where they will land. And it’s clear that they — without the usual constraints of trombone, clarinet, bass, drums, and what have you — are free to play the most familiar repertoire and make it incredibly alive.

What we have is an audience-recording done by the late UK trumpeter Roy Bower (who played in the Benny Simkins’ band) — some tape hiss, but one gets used to it:

WELLSTOOD solos: LULLABY OF BIRDLAND / SHOE SHINE BOY / ST. JAMES INFIRMARY / HANDFUL OF KEYS / HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY / FIDGETY FEET / THE ENTERTAINER / JINGLE BELLS //

Duets: STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / WHAT’S NEW? / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? / DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND //

WELLSTOOD solos: TAKE ME BACK TO MY BOOTS AND SADDLE / THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’ / SNOWY MORNING BLUES / CAROLINA SHOUT / HOW ABOUT YOU? / SO IN LOVE //

Duets: STARDUST / MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND / I CAN’T GET STARTED / SUMMERTIME / IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD / SWING THAT MUSIC //

Isn’t that extravagantly lovely? In retrospect, I think how fortunate we have been to have artists like Billy and Dick share the planet with us, and that people — wise enthusiasts like Roy — couldn’t bear to let the sounds evaporate as soon as they hit the air. And — since the inventor of the cassette tape just died after a long like — I celebrate those little plastic memory boxes that didn’t fall apart (mine is thirty years old). A whole chorus of gratitude, if you please.

May your happiness increase!

QUITE RARE and QUITE HOT: NAPPY LAMARE and his RENDEZVOUS BALLROOM ORCHESTRA, SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA. Collective personnel: JOHNNY WINDHURST, CHUCK MACKEY, GEORGE THOW, LOU McGARITY, BUD WILSON, JOE YUKL, MATTY MATLOCK, MARVIN ASH, MORTY CORB, NAPPY LAMARE, RAY BAUDUC, NICK FATOOL, JOHN FREELING (September 1947)

You wouldn’t think that a long-playing record issued in the US in 1974 could be rare, but this one is — I heard this music first on a cassette from one of my devoted collector friends, and then found a copy for sale (inexpensively, because I think few people sensed what delightful music it contains) — and it isn’t even listed in Tom Lord’s comprehensive THE JAZZ DISCOGRAPHY. So I thought it would only be right to share it with you.

Lamare is not well-known, or if he is, it’s for novelty vocals with Bob Crosby and Wingy Manone, and later in his career he was placed in the role of a straw-boater-and-striped-jacket-banjo-player, which reputation tended to follow him, especially for those of us who saw his apparently stereotypical records at yard sales. But it’s obvious he could play, he could swing, and he could inspire an ensemble. I offer this 1941 Epiphone advertisement as proof of life without a straw boater:

1941-epiphone-emperor-nappy-lamare_1_43ebcccc738cf85e708caf7eb8f685ce

But to our musical sermon for today.

NAPPY LAMARE

The facts, according to Jack Webb, who loved this music.

a) Chuck Mackey, Johnny Windhurst, trumpet; Matty Matlock, clarinet; Lou McGarity, trombone; Marvin Ash, piano; Nappy Lamare, guitar; Morty Corb, string bass; Nick Fatool, drums. 9.14.47

b) George Thow, trumpet; Matlock; Bud Wilson, trombone; Eddie Miller, tenor saxophone; Lamare, Ash, Corb, Ray Bauduc, drums. 9.28.47

c) as for a) but Joe Yukl replaces McGarity and John Freeling replaces Fatool 9.21.47.

The songs: DIPPERMOUTH (a) / PEG O’MY HEART (b) / IN THE MOOD (a) / WOLVERINE BLUES (a) / SENSATION RAG (b) / I’M GONNA MOVE TO THE OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN, vocal Lamare (b) / CHARMAINE (c) / TIM ROOF BLUES (c).

Recorded by Dave Caughren onto 12″ acetates with a single microphone, released on Fairmont Records LPM 105.

You’ll have your own champions here, but Fatool, Bauduc, Windhurst, and McGarity make the angels dance:

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-Two) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

Ear-Inn_rsz-1024x768Music first, credits below.  Ecstasy at the Ear!

Never did the threat of loneliness swing so hard:

The stuff that dreams are made on:

These musicians could spoil us for anyone else, don’t you think? This performance was part of an extraordinary jam session at The Ear Inn, on January 2, 2011, with Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Bria Skonberg (trumpets); John Allred, Emily Asher, Todd Londagin (trombones); Pete Martinez, Dan Block (clarinets); Lisa Parrott (alto sax); Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden (guitars); Nicki Parrott (bass); Chuck Redd (wire brushes). And in case you missed the glorious finale that I posted last week, make sure you’re seated securely and have a firm grip on that TIGER:

and the delightful concluding seconds.  The TIGER, last seen, was running north to Houston Street to get a snack of a lamb gyro, triple lamb, hold the pita, no red onions, at a Greek restaurant:

There’s more to come.  True in the larger sense, we hope and believe.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

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“WHAT DID YOU BRING US?”: MICHEL BASTIDE’S PRICELESS MEMORY-GIFT: July 1974

I know Michel Bastide as the slender, bespectacled hot cornetist of the Hot Antic Jazz Band, a very earnest, gracious man and musician.  Here he is leading a small incendiary group at the 2010 Whitley Bay Jazz Party, “Doc’s Night Owls.”  The “Doc,” incidentally, is because M. Bastide’s day gig is as an ophthalmologist.  But before this week, I didn’t know that he was also an early member of my guild of jazz archivists, and my admiration for him has soared.  I stumbled across his priceless half-hour memory tour on YouTube, was immediately thrilled, and I suggest you will feel as I do.  

Monsieur and Madame Bastide went to the 1974 Grande Parade du Jazz.  It was one year before any of the proceedings were broadcast on television, so although some recordings were made, the active life of the festival was not documented.  Perhaps Doctor Bastide has a deep spiritual respect for the powers of the eye, of visual acuity and visual memory, or he simply could not bear going home without some tangible souvenirs that could be revisited and cherished once again.  He brought a color 8mm film camera, which was the technology of the times, and his wife carried a small cassette recorder that got surprisingly clear audio fidelity.

Perhaps because of the inertia and tedium that are the gift to us of Covid-19, eleven months ago M. Bastide began the difficult, careful, and no doubt time-consuming work of attempting to synchronize music and image.  The results are spectacular and touching: he is quite a cinematographer, catching glimpses of the musicians hard at work and having a wonderful time.

I’ll offer some a guided tour of this impromptu magic carpet / time machine, beginning at the Nice airport on July 14, 1974: glimpses of Claude Hopkins, Paul Barnes, Vic Dickenson, Beryl Bryden, Lucille Armstrong;

An ad hoc sidewalk session for Lucille with Michel Bastide, Moustache, Benny Waters, Tommy Sancton;

Dejan’s Brass Band in the opening parade, July 15;

Cozy Cole, Vic Dickenson (talking!) and Arvell Shaw;

Lucille Armstrong unveils a bust of Louis with Princess Grace of Monaco in attendance (how gorgeous she is!);

STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, with Wallace Davenport, Wild Bill Davison, Bill Coleman, Jimmy McPartland, Barney Bigard, Budd Johnson, Vic Dickenson, George Wein, Arvell Shaw, Cozy Cole;

Eubie Blake talks and plays;

Moustache All-Stars with George Wein;

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, with Kid Thomas Valentine, Emmanuel Paul, Louis Nelson, Alonzo Stewart, Joseph Butler, Paul Barnes, Charlie Hamilton;

World’s Greatest Jazz Band, with Yank Lawson, Bob Haggart, Bennie Morton (in shirtsleeeves!), Bob Wilber, Kenny Davern, Jimmy McPartland, Joe Venuti, Marian McPartland;

a glimpse of Claude  Hopkins, Buddy Tate, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis;

the Barney Bigard – Earl Hines quartet;

Buddy Tate signing an autograph;

Milt Buckner, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Tiny Grimes, Jo Jones;

Cozy Cole, to the side, smoking a substantial joint, watching Jo;

George Barnes, Ruby Braff, Wayne Wright, Michael Moore;

Kid Thomas Valentine and Alonzo Stewart signing autographs; Tiny Grimes walking to the next set; Claude Hopkins; Arvell Shaw waving so sweetly at the camera;

Earl Hines solo;

World’s Greatest Jazz Band with Lawson, Haggart, Wilber, Morton, Ralph Sutton, Bud Freeman, Gus Johnson;

Benny Waters;

Vic Dickenson joining the WGJB for DOODLE DOO DOO;

Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing TIGER RAG with Barney Bigard off to the side, joining in.

Wonderful glimpses: to me, who looks happy in the band; who takes an extra chorus and surprises the next soloist; adjusting of tuning slides; spraying oil on one’s trombone.  Grace Kelly’s beauty; Arvell Shaw’s sweet grin.  Just magic, and the camera is almost always focused on something or someone gratifying:

Monsieur and Madame Bastide have given us a rare gift: a chance to be happy engaged participants in a scene that few of us could enjoy at the time.  I was amazed by it and still am, although slightly dismayed that his YouTube channel had one solitary subscriber — me.  I hope you’ll show him some love and support.  Who knows what other little reels of film might be in the Bastide treasure-chest for us to marvel at?

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

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“CREOLE LOVE CALL”: BARNEY BIGARD, KENNY DAVERN, BOB WILBER, EDDIE DANIELS, DICK HYMAN, JACK SEWING, J.C. HEARD, and a brief DAVERN INTERLUDE (Nice, July 15, 1977)

Writing about Kenny Davern and sharing people’s memories of him have left me wanting to share more, so I thought I might share this wonderful on-the-spot piece of musical architecture with you. The participants are Barney Bigard, Kenny, Bob Wilber, and the rather idiosyncratic Eddie Daniels, clarinet; Dick Hyman, Jack Sewing, string bass, and J.C. Heard, drums. It was performed at the Grande Parade du Jazz — known to its friends as the Nice Jazz Festival — on July 15, 1977.

CREOLE LOVE CALL is thematically as plain as you could want, but the simplicity becomes a beautiful freeing place from which to soar, to sing individual songs, to moan dark feelings and reach for the stars in the space of a chorus. This performance, for me, is intense and intensely melodic: a triumph of understanding, leaving Mr. Daniels aside for the moment.

The video also catches Kenny amusing himself and attempting to amuse the crowd — for once, without success. I know that the audience might not have had a preponderance of English-proficient people, but their absolute silence after Kenny’s patented jape is a little unnerving (surely they’d heard those names before?) and his annoyance is palpable . . . but I am glad this exchange is captured for posterity, for it summons up the whole of the much-missed Mr. Davern. But, the music. The music!

May your happiness increase!

https://syncopatedtimes.com

REMEMBERING KENNY (Part Two): Words BY MIKE KAROUB, HOWARD KADISON, JAMES CHIRILLO, KEVIN DORN, DAN BLOCK. Music by KENNY DAVERN, JOHNNY WINDHURST, CUTTY CUTSHALL, DAVE FRISHBERG, JACK SIX, CLIFF LEEMAN (1961)

 

kennydavern-1_v1000

HOWARD KADISON:  Sunday nights, I’d sometimes go with Davern to Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant on Second
Avenue. The waiters were noted for their abrasiveness and truculence. Kenny would
bait them: “How are the blintzes?” “They’re always good.” “I didn’t ask about always, I
asked about NOW!” And so it would go, ending in a generous tip.

DAN BLOCK:  Kenny had a mind like an encyclopedia. His knowledge not only of jazz, but archival classical recordings was amazing. My last memory was hanging out with him in New Orleans after he played in a bookstore with Bob Wilber. He held court with three or four of us for about an hour and a half. It was unforgettable.

KEVIN DORN: Something he said to me, sitting at the bar of the Cornerstone: “It’s one thing to come up with your own sound in a style that’s brand new. But to come up with your own sound in a style that’s older, that was there already, is a different and difficult challenge.” I always thought that was a deep observation and something he certainly achieved.

JAMES CHIRILLO: Every note he played had a sound as big as a house, no matter the register, and every note had an intensity that said: “This is how it’s supposed to go.” I still miss him.

MIKE KAROUB: I was playing bass in Jim Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band and we played opposite Davern at a show at the University of Chicago, some time between 1990-92. He might have been there with Butch Thompson or his own group. (Butch had Franz Jackson also.)

I checked into the Blackstone Hotel. Never having met Davern, I saw him outside. I walked up to him in my trench coat – Kenny looking tough in a leather coat — and said, “Uncle Ken, I need a Lucky Strike.” (Or I may have said, “Kenny, give me a Lucky Strike,” but you get the idea.) He said, “OK, man,” and handed me one. He instinctively knew I wasn’t a real hood. We chatted for a second, then later, probably at the intermission. Strangely, I don’t recall if there was a closing number with massed bands, “all hands on deck,” so I have no recollection of playing with him!

I know that when we were teenagers, I told my dear friend Jon-Erik Kellso, “If I ever meet Davern, I’m going to wear a trench coat like the Detroit mafia and demand a Lucky Strike.” I think he was bemused by our. 25 year old impetuous behavior.

Ten years later, at the Atlanta Jazz Party, after my set with Banu Gibson, I went to catch Kenny’s set and sat in front. He waved, and after the show he came down to me. I said, “Uncle Ken, I brought us some Luckies.” He had exhausted his supply (he was very dedicated) so I was in like Flynn.

“Michael, my nephew, I am so glad you could make it.” He sat down, ordered us coffee, and told stories about being on the road with Jack Teagarden.

I have no idea how he knew who I was unless Jon-Erik tipped him off (although I barely saw Jon, who was a floating “all star”) or saw the program or remembered me from Chicago. I believe he smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes (unfiltered Camels his second choice). In any case, he acted like it was the biggest deal that I came to his show. And I was really some long lost relative. I was kept too busy for the rest of the festival to see Uncle Ken. Again or ever again, as it turned out. Ordinarily, I’m not that forward but. something told me this was a once in lifetime deal and to seize the day.

MICHAEL STEINMAN: I saw him a few times when I was still in college and shy (complicated by my attempts to record every note on some variety of tape). One Sunday, I’d seen him in the late afternoon at a Your Father’s Mustache Balaban and Cats session, and then my friend and I went down to the Half Note to hear Ruby Braff. Kenny walked in, I saw him, and exuberantly said, “Kenny!” and seeing his amused expression — part “Who the hell are you?” and part suppressed hilarity, I remembered my place in the cosmos and said, “Mister Davern . . . ” and he looked at me and said, in mock-hauteur, “Oh, pardonnez-moi,” gave me a satiric look and walked away.  When I saw him for the last time, in Denver, October 2006, I thought it prudent to leave that incident in the past.

And now for some delightful rare music.

The tape that follows (audio only) isn’t from my collection, but the dropouts vanish after three minutes.  Recorded by Dave Frishberg, It’s the only evidence I know of Kenny Davern’s Washington Squares, a band he loved, performing at Nick’s in 1961.  The repertoire is ancient; the inventiveness and energy are startling.  It’s Kenny, clarinet; Johnny Windhurst, cornet; Cutty Cutshall, trombone; Dave, piano; Jack Six, string bass; Cliff Leeman, drums.  I read in Edward N. Meyer’s biography of Kenny, JUST FOUR BARS, that Buzzy Drootin was the chosen drummer (imagine a world where your sub on the job is Cliff?), that Buzzy recommended Frishberg, and that Frishberg brought along Jack Six.  Unusual and uplifting partners for such a band, but everyone is in exceptional form.

Did I say we miss Kenny Davern?  We certainly do.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

REMEMBERING KENNY (Part One): Words BY DANNY TOBIAS. Music by KENNY DAVERN’S SWINGIN’ KINGS: DICK WELLSTOOD, TOMMY SAUNDERS, BILL ALLRED, COUNTRY THOMAS, BUTCH HALL, VAN PERRY, EDDIE PHYFE (Manassas, December 2, 1979)

Over the past few months, I’ve been attempting to assemble a portrait, words and music, of Kenny Davern.  He’s been the subject of an extensive biography, JUST FOUR BARS, by Edward Meyer, but I wanted to talk to musicians who had known and played with him while everyone, including me, is still around.  This first part is a wonderful reminiscence of Kenny by his friend and ours, trumpeter Danny Tobias, who looks and sees, hears and remembers.  At the end there’s music that will be new to you.  And Part Two is on the way.

DANNY TOBIAS:

He had a reputation of being crabby, and he was all that, but he liked me, and he liked the way I played — most of the time — if he didn’t like it, he let me know . . . there was no bullshit.  If I did something dumb, he would say it right there.  If I screwed up an ending, he would say, “Why did you do that?” and I would explain, and he would say, “Don’t do that.”  So I learned a lot from him.  He didn’t pull any punches, but he genuinely liked the way I played.  Once he told me I was a natural blues player, and that meant the world to me.  I had a feel for it.  When he said something nice, it meant a lot to me.

He introduced me to the music of Pee Wee Russell.  He knew who was on every record.  He’d say, “Did you ever hear those Red Allen records or the Mound City Blue Blowers from —– ?” and I’d say no, and he’d come in the next week with a cassette.  Then, after the gig,  we’d go out to the car, and he would smoke his Camels, and we would listen to a whole side of a tape!  He was also very much into Beethoven, into classical music, in particular the conductor Furtwangler.  He’d say, “Check this out,” and I’d get in his car and he’d play a whole movement from one of the symphonies.  And then I started collecting recordings, mostly so I could talk to him about it.  And if I heard anything, I could call him and say, “Do you know this record?” and “What do you think of this?”  When he died, that was what I missed most — being able to call and ask him about this record or that record.

I’m still picking up recordings of Kenny I never heard before.  Dick Sudhalter put together a concert of Kenny and Dick Wellstood at the Vineyard Theatre.  It was terrific.  I still get thrilled by these recordings. 

I got to play with him, for about ten years, at a hotel in Princeton called Scanticon, If he wasn’t on the road, he could have that gig if he wanted it.  He was there a lot — maybe half the Saturday nights.  Here’s what I don’t regret.  Some people say, ‘I wish I’d appreciated the time I spent with _____,” but I appreciated every night I spent with Kenny.  I was in seventh heaven playing next to him.

The things I take away from him that I try to incorporate . . . He could build a solo.  If he was playing three or four choruses, there was a growth.  It was going somewhere.  Everything would build.  The tune would build.  If you were in an ensemble with him, it was going forward.  When I play now, he’s not here, but I try to keep that thought: build, build, build. 

The other thing about him, and it’s a treasure — these aren’t my words, but somebody said he could play the melody of a song with real conviction.  It would be unmistakably him.  No hesitation.  If he played a wrong note, it wouldn’t matter.  He played with total conviction.  And that’s kind of rare.  I can hear other people getting distracted — it didn’t happen to him much, because he played with that sureness. 

And he had more dynamic range than any clarinet player I’ve ever heard.  He could play in the lower register, and I’d hear Jimmie Noone — he did that so well — in the middle register I could hear Fazola in his sound, and a thing he could do that I don’t hear anyone else do, he could soar.  In an outchorus, he could play a gliss, it was the biggest sound you’d ever heard.  And not just loud, but a big wide sound.  Not a shrill high sound.  It’s a thing I haven’t heard anyone else do.  Irving Fazola had that same kind of fat sound.  Who knows where that comes from?  It’s a richness, I guess.  Not loud, but big,  Round.

He taught me how to play in ensembles.  He said, “In an ensemble, don’t  just leave space, but musically — ask a question and wait for the answer.”  Play something that will elicit a response.  And there’s nothing in the world more fun than that.  You have a real dialogue going on.  He’s the first person who explained that to me.  People are afraid to talk to each other on the bandstand, we don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings, but he’s the first person who said, “Do that,” and it made playing in ensembles so much more fun.  I can get responses from other players by setting something up.  Being the lead horn player, you have to set that up.  It doesn’t just happen.

He had such varied interests.  He would read all kinds of books.  I don’t know where he got the time.  I don’t think he slept.  Not just music.  He would read novels.  A lot of it was over my head.  He was all self-taught.  He could speak really good German.  He could communicate really well in several languages.  I always wanted to be like him, to get a touring schedule and go here and there, because it seemed very exotic to me, in my thirties, and I’m sure it wasn’t as exotic as I pictured it.  He complained about everything, but I think he loved it.

On a gig, Kenny would talk to the audience . . . he would just tell stories — how he just got back from Scotland and how everything was awful, the conditions were awful, how he had to spend a night in a hotel and couldn’t use the bar.  He would go on diatribes — funny, acerbic.  I remember one time he was playing at Trenton State, where I went to college.  I went to hear him, and he was playing in the student center, talking about the architecture and how bad it was.  The audience was laughing but the administrators were a little uncomfortable.  He would talk as if he were in a conversation rather than just announcing songs . . . as if he was letting you in on the inside dirt.

He really loved the final group he had, with Greg Cohen, and Tony Di Nicola, and James Chirillo.  He’d been to all the jazz parties and festivals, and so on, but he got to the point where that was he wanted to do.  If you hired him, he wanted to be there with his band.  He was happier being the only horn.  And he loved guitar — you know, after Wellstood . . . I mean he loved playing with Art Hodes and with John Bunch, but in that group he liked guitar.  In that group, it was freer for him.  The piano can pin you in to certain harmony rules; it can be too busy.  With the guitar, he got real freedom: he could play whatever he wanted.  If he wasn’t with a great piano player, he would cut them out when it was his turn to play. He didn’t like extraneous stuff.  I felt bad for them sometimes, but Kenny could just play with the bass and the drums.  And sound great, of course.

He had a reputation for making fun of things, but he was so good to me.  He went out of his way to introduce me to records he thought I should listen to, he put me on bands where I was in over my head a little bit, and he got me playing with great guys.  He couldn’t have been nicer to me.

The music: Davern, clarinet; Dick Wellstood, piano; Butch Hall, guitar; Van Perry, string bass; Eddie Phyfe, drums; Tommy Saunders, cornet; Bill Allred, trombone; Mason Country Thomas, tenor saxophone. I WANT TO BE HAPPY / WABASH BLUES / SWING THAT MUSIC. Thumbscrews, no extra charge.

We miss Kenny Davern.

May your happiness increase!

THE GROOVE, SO NICE: ERSKINE HAWKINS, JAY McSHANN, CLAUDE “FIDDLER” WILLIAMS, VIC DICKENSON, BUDDY TATE, JIM GALLOWAY, GENE RAMEY, GUS JOHNSON (July 12, 1979)

Here’s a classic jazz festival / jazz party set (or at least the second part of one): it could have been a completely disconnected group of stars doing their feature numbers, but they are unified by The Groove.

And it helps immensely that Jay McShann, piano; Gene Ramey, string bass; Gus Johnson, drums, were having a little reunion of the original McShann rhythm section.  The band is in a Kansas City mood, even though none of them hails from that city: Erskine Hawkins, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Claude “Fiddler” Williams, violin.  (Alabama, Ohio, three from Texas, Scotland, two from Oklahoma, should you wonder.)

This video begins with Hawkins’ hit — recorded almost forty years before to the day, TUXEDO JUNCTION, then the song Vic featured with the Eddie Heywood band and also the band Ed Hall led in Boston, PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE, and a slow raunchy BLUES featuring Buddy and McShann.

Erskine didn’t record after 1971, but he had a rewarding steady gig, well-remembered by our friend Hank O’Neal in this lovely portrait of the man and the musician who got people on the floor to dance, wherever he was:

Perhaps this will send people back to hear Erskine’s Bluebird and Victor recordings — entertaining documents of a danceable swinging band.  This post, by the way, is for my friends Nick Rossi and Michael Gamble, among others, who know The Groove when it enters the room.

May your happiness increase!

 

A FEW PRECIOUS MINUTES WITH GEORGE VAN EPS (Downbeat, New York City, c. 1969)

What follows is a small, unpolished gold nugget for the ears.  And for the years.  Six minutes and seven strings: George Van Eps, solo, at the Downbeat, a New York City restaurant / jazz club.  My source says 1967 or 8, but I am guessing a little later, given newspaper accounts.  The two songs are A LOVE SONG FOR JO (his devoted wife) and MOUNTAIN GREENERY.

As is the case with so many rarities I’ve been digitizing, some distortion — thanks to the chemical limitations of acetate recording tape — and some chatter — thanks to steaks and Scotch, I wager — are yours free of charge.  My ears got used to both, and Van Eps — inventing and re-inventing the guitar as “a lap piano,” is the wonder of the age.  Play it for the children, too — especially those who think that the history of the guitar began when they started lessons.

May your happiness increase!

 

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-One) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

There’s always some reason to celebrate.

Jazz fans of a certain vintage know the photographs of Fifty-Second Street jam sessions — in this case, Sunday afternoons at Jimmy Ryan’s in the early Forties, with every luminary within ten miles joining in on the closing BUGLE CALL RAG.  Or this pastoral little gathering, no doubt improvising on Debussy:

I see Hot Lips Page, Kenny Hollon, possibly Jack Bland, Pete Brown, and Marty Marsala, and I imagine Zutty Singleton or George Wettling.  Oh, yes, “Very Blowingly.”

By 1948 or so, the line of clubs on “Swing Street” — Fifty-Second between Sixth and Seventh — was gone, and now, even though there’s a street sign denoting past glories, no trace remains.  But Sunday nights at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, when the EarRegulars held court — as we hope they will again — were a divine evocation of that time and place.

Perhaps the most memorable and happy of New Year’s celebrations was January 2, 2011, with All The Cats Joining In.  I don’t exaggerate: Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; John Allred, Emily Asher, Todd Londagin, trombone; Pete Martinez, Dan Block, clarinet; Lisa Parrott, alto saxophone; Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Chuck Redd, wire brushes on paper tablecloth. Ecstasy at The Ear!

As we go backwards into time, and forwards also, here is the last glorious improvisation of that night, a nearly-sixteen minute TIGER RAG:

and the tail of that TIGER:

I look forward to a return of such ecstasies.  Join me at 326 Spring Street — in reality and in joyous memory — and let’s share a big portion of hope.

May your happiness increase!

“JAZZ CAN BE HOT OR LANGUID”: BILLIE HOLIDAY, ROY ELDRIDGE, CHARLIE SHAVERS, ED HALL, BEN WEBSTER, VIC DICKENSON, BENNIE MORTON, ART TATUM, AL CASEY, SLAM STEWART, ARTHUR TRAPPIER, JOSH WHITE (“New World A-Coming,” WNYC, June 25, 1944)

Billie Holiday and Sidney Catlett at the Metropolitan Opera House, January 18, 1944

Here’s an extraordinarily fulfilling eighteen minutes, as if — in the name of humanity and enlightenment — a New York radio station was able to gather everyone of note into its studios to uplift listeners: Billie Holiday, vocal; Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers; trumpet; Vic Dickenson, Bennie Morton, trombone; Ed Hall, clarinet; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone; Art Tatum, piano; Al Casey, guitar; Slam Stewart, string bass; Arthur Trappier, drums; Josh White, vocal and guitar.

“NEW WORLD A-COMING: THE STORY OF NEGRO MUSIC,” Broadcast on WMCA, June 25, 1944, based on the book by Roi Ottlei, narrated by Canada Lee. Theme by Duke Ellington. Introduction / I GOT A HEAD LIKE A ROCK Josh White / FINE AND MELLOW Billie / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / ALL OF ME Billie / I GOT RHYTHM // Hall Johnson Choir announced but edited out of this recording.

The music is timeless; the commentary may seem less so: I was struck by “from cabin to cabaret,” and sensitized listeners might find other archaisms. But the music!

P.S. “Jazz can be hot or languid.” You knew that, of course.

P.P.S., based on fifteen minutes of online curiosity: WMCA was a rock-and-pop AM station in the Sixties, home of the “Good Guys.”  Started in 1925, it had a wide range of popular music programming, with programs aimed at an African-American audience.  In 1989, it became a Christian radio station and continues today.

May your happiness increase!

FLO AND SALLY, MUSIC LOVERS (1937, 1951, eBay)

“Mr. Berigan, would you sign my autograph book?”

“Of course.  What’s your name, young lady?”

“‘Flo.’ That’s for Florence, of course.”

“Very nice to meet you, Flo.”

“Why, thank you, Mr. Berigan!”

Fast-forward thirteen years to another part of the forest.

“Sally, there’s mail for you.  I left it on your bed.  It’s this Friday!”

“Can I come with you?”

“Of course, Clarice.  But don’t get all wrapped up in those boys like you did last time.  Remember when you had too much beer and ruined my green sweater?  I’m going to go so I can get Mr. Robinson’s autograph.”

“Who?”

“Clarice, don’t you hear anything I say through those rollers on your head?  I’ve told you ten times.  Prince Robinson.  He played with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.  Coleman Hawkins said he admired Mr. Robinson when he was a young man.  And Mr. Robinson played with Louis.”

“Louis?”

“Clarice, I give up.  Louis Armstrong.”

“All right, Sally.  I’ll wear the blue chiffon.  Those boys were dreamy.  And four trumpet players, too!”

And a postscript.  The music above stands on its own, as do the holy paper relics.  I’ve indulged myself in inventing conversations.  But online life is both peculiar and marvelous.  “Flo” is untraceable and I think no longer on the planet, given the arithmetic of 1937 and 2021.  But “Sally Green” from Vassar College is less phantasmal: she’s second from left in the front row — page 3 of the Vassar Chronicle, April 19, 1952.  She looks like someone who would properly appreciate Prince Robinson!

May your happiness increase!

FOUR HOPEFUL SERENADES IN THE FACE OF IMPENDING DARKNESS: McQUAID’S MELODIANS JUST BEFORE LOCKDOWN: MICHAEL McQUAID, ENRICO TOMASSO, DAVID HORNIBLOW, ANDREW OLIVER, THOMAS “SPATS” LANGHAM, LOUIS THOMAS, NICHOLAS D. BALL (“The Spice of Life,” March 16, 2020)

These four shining performances, and the context in which they were created, made me think of Samuel Beckett, “After all, when you are in the last bloody ditch, there is nothing left but to sing.”  Beckett was talking about the Irish, beset by enemies, but his words so well depict these musicians playing as if everyone’s life depended on it in the face of death.

Michael McQuaid with the Vitality Five, February 2019, photo by Michel Piedallu.

The pandemic doesn’t need any explication.  Michael McQuaid’s Melodians do, an all-star group . . . and I do not use that term lightly . . . playing Chicago jazz — three performances that nod to 1927-28 recordings with Muggsy Spanier, Frank Teschemacher, Gene Krupa, Eddie Condon, Joe Sullivan, and Bud Freeman, and one (I MUST BE DREAMING) as homage to the Wolverines.   The participants: Michael McQuaid, clarinet and arrangements; Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; David Horniblow, tenor sax; Andrew Oliver, piano; Thomas ‘Spats’ Langham, banjo; Louis Thomas, string bass; Nicholas D. Ball, drums.

Please note that these performances, so nicely captured for us by Stephen Paget, follow the outline of the recordings (in three cases) but the soloists go for themselves, most gloriously.  The original players were innovative; these heroic descendants are also.

SUGAR (echoing McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans):

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE (shades of the Chicago Rhythm Kings):

BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME (thinking of everyone!):

I MUST BE DREAMING (new to me, a homage to the Wolverines, but recorded by the All Star Orchestra, Seger Ellis, Joe Venuti, and Bob Haring):

Bless these expert generous players, who give so much.  They can be part of the collective soundtrack while we dream of a more spacious future.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTIFUL HEROISM: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS” (1942)

“It isn’t how you succeed; it’s how you recover when you don’t.” (Source unknown.)

YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS was written by Gene de Paul (music) and Don Raye (lyrics) for an Abbott and Costello film.  Most listeners know it from versions by Coltrane, Miles, Billie, Chet, and a few big bands — Benny, Harry, Earl — that recorded it when the song was new in 1941.

But how many know Louis Armstrong’s heart-stopping, human, and touching version from 1942?  It will come as a surprise to most — except if you heard it on the radio — an April 1 broadcast from Casa Manana in Culver City, California or on the CD on Gosta Hagglof’s Ambassador label.  (I wish Louis had recorded the song again, fifteen years later, with Russell Garcia — I can hear it in my mind’s ear.)

This is one of Louis’ great big bands — and I presume the dark arrangement is by Joe Garland, who loved the lower register (you can hear his bass saxophone in recordings from this period): Louis, Frank Galbreath, Shelton Hemphill, Bernard Flood; George Washington, James Whitney, Henderson Chambers; Rupert Cole, Carl Frye; Prince Robinson; Joe Garland; Luis Russell; Lawrence Lucie; John Simmons; Sidney Catlett.

Louis doesn’t start the performance off, which gives the dancers some time to enjoy what I will call Swing Menace, sounds that don’t feel reassuring or optimistic, backed by Sidney’s tom-toms.  The first thirty seconds or so tell us that what’s coming isn’t a comedy, but something much more threatening: if we’re with Abbott and Costello, hilarity is going become doom.  Over the trombone section, the muted trumpets sound alarms.  Danger!  Danger!

The clarinet soloist (Cole? Prince?) who takes the bridge allows some light to shine in, but that heavy brass still warns us that the way is dark.  (Please listen, now or later, to Sidney Catlett, master illuminator and spiritual support, shaping and supporting the soloists and the orchestra.)

Almost two minutes have passed (and how beautiful the band sounds) before the modulation into the key for Louis’ heartfelt vocal.  This is serious stuff, the chronicle of the heart learning but only after being wounded.  He’s so deeply into the song, even though the lyrics pass by at a dancers’ tempo: hear what he does with “kissing,” something he enjoyed in real life.  For the bridge, he’s nearly at the top of his vocal range — earnest and endearing.  “What I’m telling you is the truth,” he sings.  What follows is majestic and of, so human — with Sidney saying, “I know, Brother!” every beat.  I won’t explain it except to say that Louis begins his solo an octave higher than a more prudent player would . . . .

Hear and marvel.  “That’s the one!”

And, true professional, he returns to sing the remainder of the chorus before the band takes it out.  To attempt the impossible and then recover with grace . . .

Late in life, when William Faulkner was asked by an undergraduate how he would rank himself among the novelists of his generation, he said that artists should be measured not by what they accomplished, but what they tried to do.  I already place Louis above other mortals: these five minutes are more proof.

Here‘s Ricky Riccardi’s wonderful little essay on this performance — so worth reading (Ricky feels Louis deeply and always has facts to stand on).  Like Ricky, I want to applaud when this recording is over.  Then I play it again.  Try it.

May your happiness increase!

“COOL IT IF YOU CAN”: MISS JUBILEE and the YAS YAS BOYS (Bigtone Records, 2020)

Some twenty-first century efforts to evoke the vanished past — well-intentioned for sure — have the goofy effect of watching a child dressed up in adult clothes.  You want to applaud, but the clothes are hilariously too big and the child has not  grown into them.  Come back in fifteen years.

Other times, the musicians have so internalized the sounds that, although you know “it’s not the original,” it is captivating, with its own energy — evoking that once-lost world.  Late-night dancing, nickels in the jukebox, poignant singing to the accompaniment of a small band or a groovy pianist, hard times and deep fun.

That’s the case with this new CD (recorded in April 2020) by Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys, COOL IT IF YOU CAN.  I was immediately pleased by a few things (even before playing it): a band that takes its CD title from a performance by Frankie Half-Pint Jaxon is already showing the right credentials, and the inclusion of MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT, homage to mid-Thirties Red McKenzie on Decca, was further reinforcement.  Could I pass up a CD where one of musicians doubles on “trash can”?

I’ve admired the work of Miss Jubilee and her band before here — their compelling joyous authenticity that never strains to be authentic.  They just are.

Their new CD has the fierce playfulness of a good loud party (not the one your neighbors are having while you are trying to sleep).  There are pots of delicious food on the stove, there’s plenty of ice for the drinks, you are encouraged to have a second helping of everything.  And the music is swinging.  Hear for yourself:

The band is Valerie Kirchhoff, vocal; Ethan Leinwand, piano; Richard Tralles, string bass; Kenneth Cebrian, trumpet; Ryan Calloway, clarinet; Ryan Koenig, washboard, guitar, banjo, trash can; Nick Pence, guitar, washboard.

And the repertoire, which comes from the aforementioned Mr. Jaxon, Clara Smith, Victoria Spivey, Red McKenzie, the Missourians, the State Street Swingers, Big Bill Broonzy, the Modern Mountaineers, the Harlem Hamfats, Lil Johnson, the Famous Hokum Boys, and Bob Howard — runs the gamut from what I think of as deep Black Chicago to good-time barbecue music, from acoustic Columbia blues moaning to let’s-get-drunk-and-truck.  You’ll figure out your own associations when you hear the songs: YOU DO ME ANY OLD WAY / MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT / MOANING THE BLUES / MISSISSIPPI SANDMAN / FAN IT / DON’T TEAR MY CLOTHES No. 2 / I’VE GOT SOMEONE / WEED SMOKER’S DREAM / PRESCRIPTION FOR THE BLUES / COME ON IN / THAT BONUS DONE COME TRUE / ANY KIND-A-MAN / No. 12 LET ME ROAM / THERE AIN’T GONNA BE NO DOGGONE AFTER AWHILE.

The disc is available here, where you can also learn more about the band and their previous — as they would say in 1940 — “waxings.”

In 2o18, I wrote, “They make the best noises.”  Do they ever.

May your happiness increase!

 

HIS SENTIMENTAL MOOD: JOHN ALLRED, MATT MUNISTERI, TAL RONEN (Cafe Bohemia, January 16, 2020)

I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time when we say, “Stop!  That’s enough beauty!” and certainly this recent period is not one of those times.

John Allred, Duke Heitger, Ehud Asherie, 2009

So I offer a vivid example: Duke Ellington’s IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD played with great feeling and virtuosity by John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass — at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, on a Thursday night, January 16, 2020. 

The fellow introducing the performance and then leaving the stand to enjoy it better is Jon-Erik Kellso, who knows a good deal about the creation of beauty.

Allred’s magnificence is that he makes those pieces of greased metal sing heartfelt memorable songs.  And the string section of Munisteri and Ronen is glorious also.

May your happiness increase!

THE ADVENTURES OF BUCK and BUSTER

It sounds like a children’s cartoon: Buck is always getting into trouble but his friend Buster rescues him, then Buck’s mom makes them both little pizzas.

Not really.

It’s a series of “Doctor Jazz” radio broadcasts from late 1951, turning the corner into 1952, featuring Buck Clayton, trumpet; Buster Bailey, clarinet, and other complete professionals.

Some of this material has appeared on now difficult-to-find Storyville CDs, but those discs do not present complete shows.

The details: “Dr. Jazz” WMGM broadcasts from Lou Terrasi’s, New York City. Buck Clayton, trumpet; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Herb Flemming, trombone; Kenny Kersey, piano; Joe Shulman, string bass; Arthur Herbert, drums.

December 27, 1951: THEME / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / MY GAL SAL / BOOGIE WOOGIE COCKTAIL (Kersey) / MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS //

Interlude from the Stuyvesant Casino, December 28, 1952: SWEET SUE Bobby Hackett, Dick Cary (alto horn), unid. trombone, Gene Sedric, Red Richards, unid. drums.

December 13, 1951, from Terrasi’s: THEME / FIDGETY FEET / I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU / STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / THE MOON IS LOW //

December 20, 1951: ‘DEED I DO / BALLIN’ THE JACK / JINGLE BELLS / MAHOGANY HALL STOMP / HIGH SOCIETY //

January 3, 1952: THEME / THAT’S A PLENTY / CLARINET MARMALADE / THIS CAN’T BE LOVE / BILL BAILEY / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / THEME //

You will of course notice the serious reliance on “Dixieland” repertoire, but how beautifully and energetically this band plays it (Buck wrote in his autobiography that Tony Parenti was his superb and generous teacher, showing him how these mult-part compositions went, and what the performance conventions were).  But in between BILL BAILEY and ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, there are sophisticated songs (THE MOON IS LOW), Broadway classics (THIS CAN’T BE LOVE) and even a swing composition associated with the early Basie band (I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU).  And once the obligatory ensembles on the traditional tunes are done, the solos are elegant and individualistic.

Again, a band like this says so much about the high polish that performers of that generation reached . . . especially those who didn’t always get star recognition.  Buck became a (deservedly) well-known and admired player worldwide, but the rest of the band rarely got such public recognition.  But how well they play!  What swing, what solo construction, what creative energy — and Buster and Herb had been professionals for three decades already.

Admirable, energized, inventive — and beyond cliche and cliched expectations — created by professionals who treated making music as a craft as well as art.

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring THE EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

Overheard . . . an order at the bar at The Ear Inn on Sunday night, January 16, 2011: “I need one TIGER, two of HAPPY, an order of LOVE.”  The EarRegulars, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Mark Lopeman, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Matt Munisteri or Chris Flory, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass, were eager to comply.

The videos are extraordinarily dark.  It is, after all, a New York bar in January with no light coming in from outside.  Close your eyes and enjoy.

TIGER RAG:

OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

Chris Flory, always welcome, takes over the guitar chair for HAPPY FEET:

I WANT TO BE HAPPY, with Pete Martinez, paying his own visit:

A Shrine for Swing, which the EarRegulars create when / wherever they play.

May your happiness increase!

TOMMY DORSEY, POP STAR, MEETS THE SYMPHONY (“CONCERTO for TROMBONE and ORCHESTRA,” NATHANIEL SHILKRET, conducted by LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI, WNYC, February 15, 1945)

Seventy-six years after this premiere performance, it might be difficult to envision Tommy Dorsey as a pop star of such magnitude, but the audience’s enthusiasm is more than enough proof. And I salute the young woman who, at 2:30, yells, “Frankie!” We know who that is. But Maestro Stokowski has to lecture the young men and women — an audience of 2300 schoolchildren, I have read — sternly at first, and again at the end of the second movement.

Please listen to the very end, where the announcer oh-so-calmly concludes that the audience’s excitement at the rhythmic nature of the final movement must have come from our civilization’s roots in “the jungle.” Dorsey was Caucasian of Irish descent; I wonder what would have been said were he African-American?

I’d gather than the work was written with Dorsey in mind — as the pre-eminent popular American trombonist, for Shilkret’s score has sly nods to Dorsey’s theme, I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, his hit SONG OF INDIA, and the third movement’s BOOGIE WOOGIE, at least rhythmically.  Dorsey and Shilkret had a long history: Tommy played on a recording of the All Star Orchestra, directed by Nat, in 1928, and they would have encountered each other frequently in radio orchestras Nat directed.

I think most readers will have encountered Shilkret as a name on a Victor 78, but if the Concerto has hints of film music, he also worked for RKO and MGM from 1935 to the middle Fifties.  And of course there is the pleasing shadow of Gershwin, someone whose path crossed Shilkret’s early as well.  His biography can be found here, and it’s fascinating.  He had a long life — 1889-1982 — and I am amused to find that he lived with his son for the last twenty-five years of his life in Franklin Square, New York, a suburb not far from me.

This performance of Shilkret’s CONCERTO FOR TROMBONE AND ORCHESTRA (occasionally noted with MODERN preceding the title) took place at City Center in New York City on February 15, 1945, with Leopold Stokowski conducting. And this archival recording was rebroadcast, thanks to John Schaefer, over New York public radio, WNYC-FM, here in 1989:

May your happiness increase!

 

“WHIP ME WITH PLENTY OF LOVE”: THE SWEDISH JAZZ KINGS MEET JAMES DAPOGNY at the MANASSAS JAZZ FESTIVAL: BENT PERSSON, TOMAS ORNBERG, JAMES DAPOGNY, TOMMY GERTOFT, ED McKEE (November 1988)

What follows is nearly an hour of searing hot music by remarkable players, drawing on the rarely-played repertoire of Clarence Williams, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, James P. Johnson.

The band is a Swedish-American hybrid, generating incredible heat. Bent Persson, cornet, trumpet; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Tommy Gertoft, banjo; Ed McKee, tuba.  Recorded between November 25-28, 1988, at the Manassas Jazz Festival (the date posted on the video is incorrect).

INTRODUCTION by Johnson “Fat Cat” McRee / MEAN BLUES / HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO? / WHAT MAKES ME LOVE YOU SO? (continued on 2):

WHAT MAKES ME LOVE YOU SO? (continued from 1, with an incredible solo from Bent) / WILD MAN BLUES / MANDY LEE BLUES / OLD FASHIONED LOVE (continued on 3):

OLD FASHIONED LOVE (continued from 2) / WHIP ME WITH PLENTY OF LOVE (with a dazzling four-chorus solo by Bent, followed by rollicking Dapogny):

Such a glorious combination.  Never before, never again.  Thanks to two gracious gentlemen: Joe Shepherd for these holy relics, Sonny McGown for accuracies.

May your happiness increase!

“EDDIE CONDON REVISITED,” A TRIBUTE TO BIX — with TOMMY SAUNDERS, CONNIE JONES, BOBBY GORDON, KENNY DAVERN, TOMMY GWALTNEY, MARTY GROSZ, STEVE JORDAN, BETTY COMORA, BROOKS TEGLER, LARRY EANET, TOMMY CECIL, JIMMY HAMILTON, ART PONCHERI, and JOHNSON “Fat Cat” McREE (Hayloft Dinner Theater, Manassas, Virginia: May 20, 1989)

It’s too late to call for reservations, and — for the Corrections Officers out there — it is late for Bix Beiderbecke’s birthday party, but neither he nor Eddie nor the people in this ninety-minute celebration would object to a little after-party, modeled on a 1944 Condon Town Hall concert where Bix was the subject.

Here’s the roadmap, more or less: Johnson “Fat Cat” McRee talks about Max Kaminsky, who couldn’t come / Connie Jones, Tommy Saunders, cornet; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Art Poncheri, trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, baritone saxophone; Brooks Tegler, drums; Larry Eanet, piano; Tommy Cecil, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal: FIDGETY FEET / Grosz, Connie BECAUSE MY BABY DON’T MEAN “MAYBE” NOW / Grosz, Steve Jordan, guitar: DAVENPORT BLUES / I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN Gordon announces and tells a Condon joke, Hamilton plays clarinet / add Kenny Davern, clarinet; Saunders, Poncheri, Tommy Gwaltney, clarinet: BIG BOY / Eanet CANDLELIGHTS-IN THE DARK-IN A MIST / Betty Comora, vocal; Connie, rhythm THE MAN I LOVE / WHEREVER THERE’S LOVE FC, add Marty for the chords / Betty I GOT RHYTHM / Connie, Saunders, Davern, Gwaltney, Gordon, Poncheri, Hamilton, FC [kazoo], Cecil, Brooks, Grosz JAZZ ME BLUES / TIN ROOF sign-off with kazoo, Davern on mouthpiece // “Hayloft Dinner Theatre,” Virginia, Saturday night, set two, May 20, 1989:

There’s more to come.  Always.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

May