Tag Archives: Anne BArnhart

SWING STORIES FROM NEW ORLEANS: LARRY SCALA BAND

I know that every person’s taste in art is as singular as the viewer or hearer.  But some music immediately feels good and makes us feel deeply comfortable.

This new CD made me feel right at home in its first minutes.  The subtitle on the cover is a quotation from Steve Elmer, “Play the melody, improvise, tell a story and make it swing.”  The Larry Scala Band does those things with style, as natural as breathing.

I didn’t ever find the session imitative, but it reminded me of a 1957 Verve recording — that same easy feel, with touches of Tal Farlow and Herb Ellis guiding a small band of individualists.  The players are mature improvisers — not a comment on their age, but on their deep intuitive awareness.

The band is a New Orleans ensemble (hear the Second Line beat on DREAMBOAT and the rocking FUNGII MAMA) but there is no hackneyed tourist music here. And the very instrumentation is a defense against cliche and formula — a versatile quartet with Fischer’s bright, never shrill clarinet and Moore’s warm tenor forming a front line with Scala’s gleaming, twining single-note lines and pulsing chords.  The two horns don’t fight for dominance, and there are no easy plagiarisms from the Goodman Sextets.

LARRYSCALABAND

It has a very warm momentum: music too vivid to be “smooth jazz” or background murmurings.  Although there are only five players pictured above, listeners get good value.  Larry is not only a superb soloist but someone who understands the need for rhythm, so he has unobtrusively overdubbed a quiet rhythm guitar line. It’s welcome, not a trick, and it works.  (The combined rhythmic pulse pushes TEA FOR TWO along from the first four bars.)

There are slight variations on RICHARD’S  MOTEN SWING and FLAMINGO — the changes made me take notice when I was listening for the first time, the paper sleeve out of reach — but they only add spice and variety.  As I write this, my favorites are a tender ISFAHAN, a rollicking TEA FOR TWO, a trotting MORNING GLORY — but I could easily list all eleven tracks.

Here’s the band’s Facebook page, where you can hear sound samples from the disc.  And Larry has his own page as well.    For online purchases, visit the Louisiana Music Factory page. Best yet: Larry will be a guest artist from October 23-26 at the Pismo, California Jubilee By The Sea, where you can hear him and buy CDs directly.  I found a list of the bands and guest artists — including High Sierra, Gordon Au and his brothers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Jeff and Anne Barnhart, and more here.

But don’t get distracted from SWING STORIES FROM NEW ORLEANS — accurately titled, satisfying music.

May your happiness increase!

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EVER GREEN! (July 25-27, 2014)

I know I am a very fortunate mortal, and am reminded of this every moment. One of the more tangible reminders for me is the Evergreen Jazz Festival in the Colorado city of the same name, happening very soon — July 25-27, in fact. Here is the link which tells you all the exciting necessary details. Tickets are still available.  Plane flights are still possible.  There is going to be so much lovely hot and sweet music that I know I won’t get to more than a small percentage of it.

The Festival is arranged so that each band plays eight sets over three days in five venues (is there a math major in the house?) ranging from intimate to large, with room for energetic swing dancing.

I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing artists whose music I admire greatly:

JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND (with Jon-Erik Kellso, Kim Cusack, Russ Whitman, Chris Smith, Rod McDonald, Pete Siers)

“IVORY & GOLD”: JEFF and ANNE BARNHART

BIG MAMA SUE (I know her as Sue Kroninger, and she’ll be joined by Eddie Erickson,, and Chris Calabrese)

PETER ECKLUND TRIO

and some bands new to me that come highly recommended:

AFTER MIDNIGHT (reminiscent of the Goodman Sextet)

QUEEN CITY JAZZ BAND with Wende Harston

BOGALUSA STRUTTERS

JONI JANAK and CENTERPIECE JAZZ

HOT TOMATOES DANCE ORCHESTRA

YOUR FATHER’S MUSTACHE BAND

If we’ve never met or if we have, come say hello!  I love meeting my readers in person.  I will be wearing brightly colored clothing; I will be intent and silent and beaming behind a video camera . . . while the music is playing. Otherwise I admit to a great deal of speech. Anyway, it would be lovely to meet more JAZZ LIVES friends in the mountains of Colorado.

May your happiness increase!

MOUNTAIN AIRS: THE 2014 EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 25-27, 2014)

EVERGREEN

I’m very excited to be going to the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival — that’s Evergreen, Colorado, near the end of July. The last time I visited that state was also for rewarding jazz — I have fond memories of Sunnie Sutton’s Rocky Mountain Jazz Party — so my mind automatically associates Colorado with good music and new friends.   

The Festival is arranged so that each band plays eight sets over three days in five venues (I can’t do the math; perhaps some of you can) ranging from intimate to large, with room for energetic swing dancing. 

I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing some artists whose music I admire greatly:

JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND (with Jon-Erik Kellso, Kim Cusack, Russ Whitman, Chris Smith, Rod McDonald, Pete Siers)

“IVORY & GOLD”: JEFF AND ANNE BARNHART

BIG MAMA SUE (I know her as Sue Kroninger, and she’ll be joined by Eddie Erickson, Chris Calabrese, and Clint Baker)

PETER ECKLUND TRIO

and some bands new to me that come highly recommended:

AFTER MIDNIGHT (reminiscent of the Goodman Sextet)

QUEEN CITY JAZZ BAND with Wende Harston

BOGALUSA STRUTTERS

JONI JANAK and CENTERPIECE JAZZ

HOT TOMATOES DANCE ORCHESTRA

YOUR FATHER’S MUSTACHE BAND

Filmmaker Franklin Clay made a very expert video of the 2012 Festival that you can see here. Although the 2014 lineup is different, the video shows what the Festival feels like better than ten thousand words would.

And here’s Jenney Coberly’s film of the 2011 festival: 

Elsewhere on the Festival site, there is appealing news for those people trying to hold on to their dollars until the eagle grins: discounts apply to tickets ordered before May 31, so the race is indeed to the swift.  (You need not be swift to attend the Festival: I see there is a shuttle between venues.)

I will say more about this as the calendar pages fall off the wall, but I wanted to tell JAZZ LIVES readers about good times sure to come.

May your happiness increase!

LESSONS FROM MR. RUSSELL

CHAUTAUQUA, LAURA SMITH, SAN DIEGO, PWR 056

Back by popular demand, as promised — solos played by Charles Ellsworth “Pee Wee” Russell. Several reed players found the previous Russell post intriguing and there has been an enthusiastic reaction to the most recent Eddie Miller interlude.  So here are the complete Russell solos: consider them well.  And then go for yourselves!  As he always did.

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 031

Slow.  Don’t rush.

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 027Slow Swing!

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 026

Fast Swing!

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 025

At the end of the day, consider this:

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 024

Stick around, why don’t you?

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 023

A classic.  Fast!

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 022

The Spanish tinge:

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 021For the Barnharts, especially Anne:

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 020

When whip-poor-wills call:

PEE WEE RUSSELL 001

And finally:

PEE WEE RUSSELL 002

These are for Jeff in the UK, Stan, Ben, Hal, Andrew, and myself in the US. Anyone who can play these convincingly is encouraged to make a little video — we might like to hear them come to life.

May your happiness increase!

THEY’RE THE TALK OF THE TOWN: THE BARNHARTS, JEFF AND ANNE, COME OUT TO PLAY at MONTEREY 2013 (as IVORY&GOLD)

It might take a village to raise a child.  But it only takes Jeff and Anne Barnhart to entertain an audience for an hour.  Jeff (piano, vocals, puns) and wife Anne (flute, voice, comedy and organization) held a group in thrall at the 2013 Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay — with a delightfully varied program, mixing stride piano, sweet and raucous singing, vaudeville, old songs and new, sentimental melodies (that’s a compliment), Broadway and film songs.  It all swung; it was all expertly done and masterfully improvised.

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I present IVORY& GOLD (named after aspects of their respective instruments), Jeff and Anne Barnhart!

BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN / PINEAPPLE RAG:

A wild and woolly version of THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU:

WATER FROM AN ANCIENT WELL:

EXACTLY LIKE YOU:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND:

IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN:

For the felines among us, MEMORY:

Bob Barta’s I’M IN HEAVEN:

‘S’WONDERFUL:

TENDER IS THE NIGHT / I GOT RHYTHM:

You can follow IVORY&GOLD here — Jeff and Anne are always on the move, which means you have a better-than-average chance of seeing and hearing them in person someday soon.  Jeff’s singular website can be found here.

May your happiness increase!

EXTREMELY HEALTHY FATS! (THANKS TO JEFF BARNHART and FRIENDS)

No, not these.

avocado

Or this.

olive-oil

They are certainly good for you.  But I mean this.

fats jeff

It’s a recent CD on the Lake Records label, under the leadership of the irresistibly talented pianist / singer / arranger Jeff Barnhart, with the assistance of four wonderful players, who summon up all the many sides and angles of Thomas “Fats” Waller with love rather than caricature.

By “caricature” I mean that Fats Waller was — by definition — a powerful personality, but someone who could be reduced to a series of outlandish gestures by musicians who didn’t understand him very well: rapid-fire showy stride piano, high-power clowning and singing, all the “let’s have a party in three minutes” we hear on many of his recordings.  Those “tributes,” and I’ve heard them, begin with the derby cocked over one eve, the same four or five songs, and they end at high volume.  To quote Chubby Jackson on a satirical record circa 1945, “Wasn’t that swell?”

But the essence of Fats Waller is more subtle and more varied than any clownish portrait in broad strokes, and Jeff Barnhart — an improviser / entertainer who gets beneath the obvious surfaces — has long understood that Waller was equal parts stride virtuoso and soulful musician — singer, pianist, composer. . . someone with a heart as large as his famous girth.  This isn’t to say that REFLECTIONS OF FATS doesn’t swing — but that it shows a deep awareness of Fats Waller’s depths.  Jeff hasn’t devoted himself entirely to the esoteric: the disc offers AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW, YOUR FEET’S TOO BIG, BLUE  TURNING GREY OVER YOU, THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’, and TWELFTH STREET RAG — but it also gives us the lesser-known compositions: a meaty RUMP STEAK SERENADE, KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL, HOLD MY HAND, MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’, MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS.  Three great delights of this disc are YOU MUST BE LOSING YOUR MIND (by Fats and Ed Kirkeby), AT TWILIGHT, and DO YOU HAVE TO GO? (both composed by Fats and his wife Anita).  AT TWILIGHT alone is sweetly memorable.

Jeff Barnhart is a splendid stride pianist, swing pianist, and bandleader — his ensemble playing, his support of soloists, is both uplifting and delicious.  And his singing is both original and Waller-imbued: he has some of the Master’s insinuating nasal croon that makes a Barnhart vocal both compelling theatre and a great deal of fun.  He doesn’t need the derby, in short.  On this CD he has assembled a neat band (shades of Fats’ Bluebird / Victor “Rhythm” but even more compact) of UK swing stars: John Hallam, reeds; Jamie Brownfield, trumpet; Bruce Rollo, string bass; Nick Ward, drums.  The latter two are a better rhythm team than you’d hear on some Thirties recordings — having seen them in tandem and individually at Whitley Bay, I know they are solid senders.  Nick Ward is sometimes pigeonholed as a “vintage drummer,” someone restricted by law and decency to his temple blocks, but he can swing out in the best style: Slick Jones would be proud.  John Hallam can boot things along in the appropriately vehement manner, but I was most impressed by his tender, quiet playing (I thought of Harold Ashby) on the slower numbers.  And Jamie Brownfield was only nineteen when this CD was made.  He is a great player now, and I hope to hear more from him.  And — as an aside — no one copies Autrey or Sedric here.

It’s a wonderful CD, full of surprises — with lovely annotations by Ray Smith and delightful recorded sound.  You can obtain a copy here  — I gather it is also available on iTunes, if this little band can fit in your earbuds.  Consult with your audiologist first.

Now, I don’t have something that directly pertains to REFLECTIONS OF FATS to share with you . . . . but I can offer this.  Jeff and his wife Anne (a splendid flautist and singer) who bill themselves as IVORY AND GOLD, have recently posted some performance videos on Jeff’s brand-new YouTube  channel. With their playful seriousness and serious playfulness, they make music that Mr. Waller would have liked.

Here’s their version — too short! — of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’:

May your happiness increase.

MIGHTY GOOD at MONTEREY 2013 / THE CASE OF THE YEARNING DAMSELS

I am back home and back at the computer one day after the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or Dixieland Monterey for those who like alternatives): it was quite fine on many levels.  I didn’t video quite as much as I have done in past years, but this was because I had made a conscious decision to behave with greater rationality . . . rather than seeing how many sets I could cram into the weekend and arriving home with a cold or a cough that would take two weeks to shake off.  But there will be videos, I promise.

I heard splendid music from Carl Sonny Leyland in a solo set full of his originals; I encountered Ivory and Gold for the first time, although I have known Jeff and Anne Barnhart — wonderful variety of sounds; their characteristic wit; a great presentation.  The Allan Vache – John Cocuzzi – John Sheridan – Paul Keller – Ed Metz group rocked (a highlight was an extended IN A MELLOTONE); the splendid singer Dawn Lambeth appeared with a number of bands and made us feel better and better as she sang; Marc Caparone appeared as a guest star with High Sierra — his teamwork with Bryan Shaw is astonishing; Jim Fryer had a rare and delightful solo set; the Reynolds Brothers with Clint Baker caused seismic shifts of the most rewarding kind.  Howard Miyata was crowned Musician of the Year 2013 in a ceremony both goofy and touching, and his nephews Gordon, Justin, and Brandon swung out with the noble help of Katie Cavera and Danny Coots.

And I know other attendees had their own version of an exquisite weekend while listening to all the other bands and soloists on the program.

Did you miss it?  Were you being wisely frugal?  Did it pass you by? Don’t despair: a 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay is solidly in the works, with these artists and more — Becky Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Eddie Erickson, Bob Draga, the Au Brothers, High Sierra, Bob Schulz’ Frisco Jazz Band, Danny Coots, Phil Flanigan, Stephanie Trick, Sue Kroninger, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Crown Syncopators, and more.  (And without being too didactic, I will point out that these enterprises rely on your tangible support — financial / physical — or they evaporate.  Look around for the sad evidence.)

It will be held March 7-8-9, 2014.  You may call 831.675.0298 or visit here for more information.  I will provide updates as I know them.

On to a related subject.  You are encountering JAZZ LIVES through a computer, an iPad, a phone or some other electronic gizmo.  And probably you think nothing of it.  But for other members of the jazz community, this is a terrifying kind of esoterica.

I met several charming ladies of a certain age (one doesn’t ask) at the Bash who told me that they were pining away for want of gallant male swains with whom to dance.  In each case, the ladies had been happily married for a long time; their husbands had died.  And unattached men seem not only fragile but in short supply.  So — if you are a single fellow out there, with or without two-tone shoes, and you can dance, there are willing partners a-plenty at these festivals.

The second part of my thinking goes back to our easy reliance on technology.  Since I have had a life-changing experience on Craigslist (of the best sort), I said to each of the damsels, “Do you have a computer?”  No.  One had a computer but her son used it and she had no idea how to on her own.  In each case, it was as if I had asked, “Do you know how to speak Sanskrit?”  I was all ready to say, “I know there are music-loving men of your generation who would be happy to dance with you — you could go to STRICTLY PLATONIC or ACTIVITY PARTNERS (whatever it is now called) on Craigslist — and gratifying things would happen.” But no.

So, I propose this as a generous act for a segment of the JAZZ LIVES readership. If you know someone, Auntie or Grandma or the Lady Two Houses Down, and she loves to dance . . . either help her out on your computer OR show her how to operate one.  I think this would be an act of deep swinging charity.  I know that people say, “Oh, no!  I don’t go on the computer!  I could get killed!  I could get my identity stolen!”  These fears have some basis in reality, I admit . . . but going to your grave without a partner is, to me, a sorrowful idea.

May your happiness increase.