Tag Archives: Alan Adams

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Four): THE YERBA BUENA STOMPERS at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

Good for stompin’, to quote Oran Page.  Here’s some truly heartfelt hot jazz from the 2011 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival — thanks to Paul Daspit, who brought these glorious musicians together and made sure everyone on and off the stand was beaming, and more of the same to our own “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, whose devotion to the music sends it around the world in the very best ways: her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

The Yerba Buena Stompers, led by banjoist / singer John Gill, improve the air whenever they play.  In this incarnation, recorded on November 24 and 25, 2011, in two sets, the YBS took its repertoire in part from the songs that Alan Adams — the late trombonist and San Diego festival director — loved to play.  Alan had good taste, and this is the way to be remembered!

In addition to Mister Gill, the band sported Kevin Dorn, drums; Conal Fowkes, piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet, and the brass superheroes Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger on cornet and trumpet, respectively.

Here’s MUSK(R)AT RAMBLE, played at the nice tempo it began its life at:

And that rocking lament, SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, explicated by Duke:

Another GAL, who stayed where she was, was Paul Dresser’s loyal MY GAL SAL:

A brisk exploration of WABASH BLUES:

One of the great early hit songs of the last century, ROSES OF PICARDY (again taken at such a sweet tempo — balancing Hot and Sentimental perfectly). The trumpet conversation after Orange’s solo is priceless:

Something for Johnny Dodds — circa 1926, Chicago — FLAT FOOT:

A less-known invitation to the dance from the Hot Five repertoire, with an inviting vocal by John — and dig the trumpet / cornet sound on the verse, and their colloquy after the vocal:

Finally, an evocation of Louis and Papa Joe, RIVERSIDE BLUES:

Come on and Stomp!

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I JUST FLEW IN FROM SAN DIEGO!

. . . and boy, are my arms tired!  But my ears are still full of wonderful music.  I don’t mean “San Diego” as a city, but the 32nd annual San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival, which began for me on last Thursday night and continued into the middle of Sunday afternoon.

Festivals and parties take on the personalities of their organizers, and this one benefited so much from Paul Daspit, who stepped in after the death of the much-loved trombonist Alan Adams.  Paul is tall, soft-spoken, carefully-dressed, usually sporting a nifty hat (no beanie with a propeller for this gent), and his demeanor is both calm and amused.  Even when he was dealing with a series of flooded hotel rooms, he seemed to know that getting all flurried would do him — and us — no good.  So it was a great delight to see Paul come in, savor the music with a quiet smile on his face, and move on to something else.  His generosity of spirit made it possible for me to attend, for the musicians to play their best.  By the way, when I asked Paul about this, he said he was only carrying on Alan’s philosophy: to establish a space where everyone would be so comfortable and easy that the music would flow out and around everyone.

And it did.  I am a devoted follower of a few bands — my heroes are the Reynolds Brothers and the Tim Laughlin-Connie Jones All-Stars, the Yerba Buena Stompers, High Sierra, as well as the individual musicians Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Sue Fischer, Bryan Shaw, Dawn Lambeth, Hal Smith, Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Kevin Dorn, Marc Caparone, the amazing Paul Woltz, and a dozen others . . . but I looked at the schedule more than a dozen times and figured that if I had been able to see all the sets I’d wanted to, the number would have been more than fifty . . . not possible for one person.  Because the festival was unashamedly a cornucopia, with six or more bands playing at once in different venues, I would have had to be willing to run from the middle of one set to the middle of another, which I wasn’t willing to do.

Too many highlights, and I won’t list them here for fear of leaving something out that was good, better, best.  I think I liked the surprises, though: being outside the main building, coming back from dinner, and hearing a band — it turned out to be Grand Dominion — and recognizing, “My goodness!  That’s Clint Baker — on trumpet — beating out JOE LOUIS STOMP!”  Or, again, hearing music from afar of a small group, around 9 AM, working its way through MUSKRAT RAMBLE — with an absolutely spine-tingling trombone solo . . . none other than tne Saint of Dixieland, Uncle Howie Miyata, playing that thing.  I also had my spirits lifted by people who don’t play instruments, at least not professionally: Jane Lynch and husband Kevin; Allene Harding; Frank Selman; Susie Miyata, Yvonne and Bill Au, Brandon and Justin of the same lineage.  I got to sit between Jane, Laurie Whitlock, and Carol Andersen . . . fun times in SoCal!

I’ll be posting my videos in a few weeks (I have Whitley Bay to share with you) but would point out that my newly-mobile West Coast doppelganger Rae Ann Berry had her video camera, her tripod, and many batteries . . . and she’s already posted a great many videos which would warm the coldest day.

But I’ll just say that there was a Reynolds-Brothers-plus jam session on Saturday night . . . where fourteen musicians got onto a tiny bandstand to wail — and I don’t use that word lightly — on MY LITTLE BIMBO and DIGA DIGA DOO.  You could hear the angels stomping.

More to come . . . . but I have already made a mental space for Thanksgiving 2012.

THE MAGIC HORN OF “PAPA RAY” RONNEI (by Hal Smith)

Video by the multi-talented Katie Cavera:

The Magic Horn of ‘Papa Ray’ Ronnei 

by Hal Smith (originally published in JUST JAZZ)

It has been nearly 40 years since I first heard the cornet magic of ‘Papa Ray’ Ronnei… 

In the mid-‘60s I was a dedicated fan of the San Francisco style as played by Lu Watters, Turk Murphy, Bob Scobey, the Firehouse Five and…Vince Saunders’ South Frisco Jazz Band.  In 1966 my parents had taken me to Huntington Beach, California where the South Frisco band played weekends at the ‘Pizza Palace’.  We became instant fans of the SFJB after that first evening and made regular trips up from La Jolla to catch the band on weekends.  The band members were especially kind to a young fan.  Washboardist Bob Raggio, then an employee of Ray Avery’s ‘Rare Records’ was particularly helpful in locating several out-of-print Murphy and Watters LPs for me.   

Late in 1967, Bob sent a note along with an LP he had found for me.  The note mentioned that on the coming weekend, a ‘very special edition of the South Frisco band would perform at the Pizza Palace, with ‘Papa Ray’ Ronnei on cornet.’  I had heard of Ray Ronnei, but had not actually heard him play. 1  Even so, my parents accompanied me to Huntington Beach to hear the band. 

At the Pizza Palace we settled in at a table, not knowing quite what to expect, when the band took off on ‘You Always Hurt The One You Love’.  Ray Ronnei’s brassy, staccato attack and almost surrealistic phrasing was like nothing I had ever heard! 2  It was a glorious and unique sound; one I still have not recovered from!  The tune selection was a radical departure from the San Francisco repertoire I was so used to: ‘Bogalusa Strut’, ‘Salutation March’, ‘Big Chief Battle Axe’, ‘One Sweet Letter From You’, ‘Ugly Chile’, ‘Blue Bells, Goodbye’, ‘Sweet Lotus Blossom’, ‘Bugle Boy March’ etc.  This night at the Pizza Palace the first time I had heard any of these numbers! 3 

When the performance ended—much too soon to suit me!—we headed home to La Jolla.  My head was spinning from the spellbinding sound of Ray Ronnei’s cornet.  Despite my continuing interest in the San Francisco style, I wanted to hear this hornman again—as soon as possible!  I did not have to wait too long, as South Frisco’s cornetist Al Crowne took a leave of absence from the band in 1968.  His replacement: Ray Ronnei!  My family made dozens of journeys north to Huntington Beach during Papa Ray’s tenure with the South Frisco in 1968-69. 

The SFJB lineup varied during this period. 4  Trombonist Frank Demond moved to New Orleans and was replaced on by Eric Rosenau, then Roy Brewer.   Mike Baird was usually on clarinet, though Jim Bogen and soprano saxophonist John Smith sometimes filled in for him.  Ron Ortmann was the regular pianist, spelled at times by Dick Shooshan, Bill Mitchell and Robbie Rhodes.  Tubist Bob Rann was usually present, with Mike Fay on string bass in Rann’s absence.  Banjoist-leader Vince Saunders was a constant, as was washboardist Bob Raggio—until the latter moved to Pittsburgh to play at baseball star Maury Wills’ nightclub.  But despite the shifting personnel, that distinctive cornet sound continued to ring joyously over the ensembles.   

When the South Frisco repertoire expanded,  three of the ‘new’ tunes—at least new to me—caught my fancy: ‘Here Comes The Hot Tamale Man’, ‘Messin’ Around’ (by Cook and St. Cyr) and ‘Flat Foot’.  These three have been my favourite ‘trad’ numbers since hearing Papa Ray play them in 1968.  Though Vince Saunders was the bandleader, he frequently let Papa Ray kick off tunes.  The latter tended towards brisk tempos and kicked them off old-style, i.e. ‘one-two-three-four ONE!  TWO!  With only a little imagination I can still hear the powerful band roaring through all-ensemble versions of ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ and ‘Cakewalking Babies’ (with Papa Ray playing the same burst of capsicum on the outchorus that Mutt Carey played on the ‘New Yorkers’ record of the same tune).  The South Frisco Jazz Band in 1968-69 was truly one of a kind.   

In 1969, Papa Ray left the South Frisco group and Al Crowne returned.  Earlier, the band recorded an LP for the Vault label entitled ‘Here Comes The Hot Tamale Man.’  Unfortunately, that LP has not yet been reissued on CD.  However, Ted Shafer’s Merry Makers Record Company has released a CD of the South Frisco Band live at the Pizza Palace, recorded in 1968 by clarinetist Ron Going.  This disc ‘tells the story’ of just how exciting a time 1968-1969 was for fans of Papa Ray’s cornet work. 

While still a resident of Los Angeles, Papa Ray played with the Salutation Tuxedo Jazz Band, Crescent Bay Jazz Band and other groups.  Before signing on with South Frisco, he worked with Ted Shafer’s Jelly Roll Jazz Band in the Bay Area.  He returned to the Jelly Roll Jazz Band temporarily in 1969.  I was able to enjoy his music via tapes made previously at the Pizza Palace, LPs by the El Dorado Jazz Band, Jelly Roll Jazz Band and the then-new South Frisco LP.  On one occasion, our family was watching a San Francisco Seals hockey game on tv.  After a Seals goal, a jazz band in the stands struck up ‘Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight’.  Clarinetist Bob Helm and trombonist Bob Mielke were instantly identifiable, as was the peppery cornet—Papa Ray, of course! 

I continued to see and hear Ray Ronnei on his visits to the L.A. area.  Sometimes he would play at a Sunday-afternoon jam session at one of the local jazz societies.  On one memorable occasion, I was asked to play a set with Papa Ray, Dan Barrett, Ron Going, Dick Shooshan, Doug Parker and veteran New Orleans bassist Ed Garland.  I don’t have a recording of this session, but at least I got a photo! 

Living away from California, I would hear occasional news concerning Ray’s appearances on various jobs.  Later, there was a disheartening rumor that he had quit playing.  I had the recordings to listen to, but still hoped to hear the ‘real thing’ again some day.  In the early ‘90s I returned to California and wound up playing once a week at the ‘Hofbrau’ in Fullerton (Orange County), California.  The bands in rotation at the time included Gremoli, Evan Christopher’s Quintet and my own Frisco Syncopators.  One night, Mike Fay came to hear the band—with Papa Ray in tow!  Ray looked the same as he had the last time I saw him, in the ‘70s.  What a blast it was to see him, and in good health at that. 

Later, when key personnel became unavailable to play the Hofbrau, the Frisco Syncopators gradually became the New Orleans Wanderers.  Papa Ray was still making an occasional appearance at the club, though I had not been able to induce him to play.  But Mike Fay stepped in, describing the band’s sound and repertoire and we managed to get Ray on cornet!  With Alan Adams (trombone), Mike Baird (reeds), Vic Loring (banjo), Mike Fay (bass) and myself on drums, we hit ‘You Always Hurt The One You Love’.  It unleashed a flood of happy memories, of good times at the Pizza Palace.  And best of all, Ray had his lip and his drive.   No one had to shoulder an extra load that night!  I still don’t know why I didn’t take a tape recorder.  Unfortunately, no one recorded us that night!  The lack of recording is all the more unfortunate because Ray was unable to make the job on a regular basis.  The Golden Eagles’ Ken Smith stepped in and became our regular hornman. 

My last encounter with Papa Ray was in 1995, when the Wanderers recorded a session for release on cassette.  We assembled in Mike Fay’s living room in Claremont, California and saw that a guest was settling in to listen to the session.   Papa Ray was happy to see his musical friends and obviously enjoyed our performances.  He would not join in on cornet, but we managed to coax him into singing ‘How Long Blues’, which was released on the cassette. 

Since then, I continue to hear that Papa Ray has taken part in occasional sessions and the report invariably includes the line ‘He sounded as great as ever’.  I am sure the reports are true.  Hearing Papa Ray Ronnei on cornet has always been a magical experience; one of the biggest thrills I have experienced in jazz.   To me, he will always be one of the greats!

  

Notes

  1. I never heard the El Dorado Jazz Band in person.  They played mostly in bars where a teenager could not enter, according to California state law.  I bought the El Dorado Epitaph and Item-1 LPs after hearing Ray with the South Frisco band.  The band finally broke up in mid-1966, but this ‘special edition’ of the South Frisco Jazz Band would be composed almost entirely of El Dorado veterans. 
  2. At the time I was unfamiliar with the recordings of Freddie Keppard, Abbie Brunies and especially Mutt Carey, who were the premier inspirations for Ray Ronnei.   (Ray studied with Mutt Carey in the late ‘40s).
  3. I discovered Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, Kid Ory and ‘British Trad’ after hearing this ‘New Orleans’ version of the South Frisco band.  Bassist Mike Fay played that night, as did pianist Dick Shooshan.  Besides hearing Ray Ronnei for the first time and hearing a wealth of ‘new’ tunes, this was my first exposure to New Orleans style string bass and Jelly Roll Morton type piano.
  4. There were surely more substitutes and guests with the South Frisco Jazz Band during this period.  My listing is based on those I actually heard, or who were recorded at the Pizza Palace.

P.S.  Ray Ronnei, born in 1916, is happily still with us!  Although he no longer plays the cornet, his composition SALTY BUBBLE can be heard in the 2009 Woody Allen film WHATEVER WORKS, and Ray plans to continue composing!  The original recording can be purchased here: http://www.worldsrecords.com/pages/artists/r/ronnei_ray/ray_ronnei_64328.html

THAT’S LIKE IT OUGHT TO BE

My title comes from a Jelly Roll Morton record from his great Victor period — but it’s a close approximation of the phrase that came into my mind when I watched and heard this great small band from the recent San Diego Dixieland Jazz Festival, with these November 27, 2009 video clips coming to us through the apparently inexhaustible generosity of Rae Ann Berry.

The band?  Led by the melifluous clarinetist Tim Laughlin, it features pianist Chris Dawson, recently celebrated in this blog, drummer Hal Smith, cornetist Connie Jones, trombonist Alan Adams, guitarist Katie Cavera, and bassist Marty Eggers — a nice mixture of Californians and New Orleanians, stirred and hot.

Here they are on WANG WANG BLUES.  Catch Hal’s press rolls behind the opening ensemble, Tim’s melodic fluidity that hints at Noone by way of Davern, his beautiful tone; Connie’s mixture of gruffness and Bixian nimbleness; that rhythm section, with Chris light yet rocking, Marty and Katie fervent, Hal remembering all the things one can do with a hi-hat cymbal and its stem; Katie’s neat chorded solo.  And then the ensemble choruses, starting calmly and getting Hot.  There are rough edges here (it seems to have started the set) but I love it in an old-fashioned way:

Fats Waller’s KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW follows, situated midway between Dixieland conventions and the Vanguard recording featuring Vic Dickenson and Ruby Braff.  Connie’s earnest vocal is a treat, and the ghosts of Wild Bill Davison and Teddy Wilson, apparently unlikely partners, share the stage in perfect harmony, before Marty’s melodic solo and the easily-rocking final ensemble:

Connie and Alan left the stage for a splendid quintet version of DOWN BY THE OLD MILL STREAM, which allows us to hear and see the uplifting work of Chris Dawson, his treble lines sparkling but never upstaging Tim.  Katie’s chordal solo reminds me of Carmen Mastren’s playing on the 1940 Bechet-Spanier session, and that’s high praise.  And this performance suggests some of the lilting playing of a Goodman – Wilson Thirties airshot without copying any of those patented licks:

More to come!