Tag Archives: Ari Munkres

MEREDITH AXELROD, CRAIG VENTRESCO, LEON OAKLEY, ROBERT YOUNG, ARI MUNKRES (The JAZZ LIVES House Concert Series, August 24, 2014)

Two very creative souls are singer / guitarist Meredith Axelrod and guitarist Craig Ventresco — wonderful elliptical individualists who energetically and sweetly reinvent the larger musics (the plural is intentional) of nearly-forgotten times.  I’ve known and admired them for nearly a decade now, but was often slightly frustrated because they send out extraordinary music that has to battle with conversation.  I know this is a fact of playing and singing in this century, but I was involved in a little house party that featured Meredith and Craig.  And there were friends making music, too: Leon Oakley, cornet; Robert Young, saxophone; Ari Munkres, string bass.  I asked this group if they would perform a few tunes just for you — the JAZZ LIVES audience.  They did, and here are three delicious unbuttoned but precise offerings:

NEW ORLEANS HOP SCOP BLUES:

EGYPTIAN ELLA:

I’M GOING TO MEET MY SWEETIE NOW:

I wish there were some way to hear Meredith and Craig with a small cast of strolling players on a regular basis, and several ideas come to mind.

If this music appeals to you, contact Meredith at her whimsical email address, meredithanthraxelrod@gmail.com and she will respond promptly.  They love the idea of coming to your home and making merry.

Or you can check her website to see videos of the two of them in performance, to learn their current schedule, to have deep metaphysical queries answered — perhaps with more queries, but that’s metaphysics. Here is Meredith’s website, a very educational experience.

If you live near North Beach in San Francisco, in Berkeley, or Oakland, you have a good chance to see these two — and friends — on a regular basis.  But I hear the New Yorkers whimpering, “What about US?”

Good news.  Meredith and Craig will be making a brief but intense New York tour in less than two weeks, and on Saturday, September 27, they will be appearing at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn — along with Dennis Lichtman, Matt Munisteri, and Tamar Korn — for a 9 – 11:30 PM show.  Buy tickets here. Jalopy is at 315 Columbia Street, and their many-splendored website is here.

East or West, Meredith and Craig and their exalted friends make refreshing music.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET AMBIANCE: TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, DENNIS LICHTMAN, DAVE RICKETTS, JARED ENGEL, ROB REICH, ARI MUNKRES: A SESSION AT BRENDA’S (June 9, 2013)

When she asked what I would like, “I’ll take a dozen of your best,” I politely told the waitperson at Brenda’s French Soul Food (on Polk Street in San Francisco) in the late afternoon of June 9, 2013.

Here’s what happened — along with delicious New Orleans food: swing visitations by my friends and heroes: Tamar Korn, voice; Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Jared Engel, Ari Munkres, string bass; Rob Reich, accordion.  A gathering of musically like-minded friends to be sure, but also a melding of three ensembles: San Francisco’s GAUCHO (Ricketts, Reich, and Munkres); Gordon’s GRAND STREET STOMPERS and Tamar Korn and Friends (everyone else).  Collect them, buy the set!

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA:

BLUES EN MINEUR:

DJANGOLOGY:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

LAZY RIVER:

DOUCE AMBIANCE:

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

COMES LOVE:

IT’S LIKE REACHING FOR THE MOON:

DINAH:

IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE:

Echoes of Louis, Django, Bing, Fats, Billie — all presented in entirely individual ways.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER SUNDAY SUPPER AT BRENDA’S WITH GAUCHO (DAVE RICKETTS, ROB REICH, ARI MUNKRES): JUNE 23, 2013

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Dr. Matilda Weinstein (the JAZZ LIVES house physician) asks, “Have you had your GAUCHO today?”

Here’s a hot and sweet musical tonic from my visit to one of GAUCHO’s regular spots — Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk Street in San Francisco — on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Dave Ricketts brought along his ever-reliable Tin Man (you’ll see it in his lap) but also his cornet, where he displays an admirable calm lyricism; Rob Reich swung out on the accordion in ways that the instrument isn’t accustomed to — all for the good! — and Ari Munkres showed again why he is a one-man rhythm section.

A hot SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (I got my camera in action late, but the second half is delicious):

The little-known rhythm ballad, MOANIN’ FOR YOU (courtesy of the Mills Brothers and patented Ricketts-Romanticism):

And for those who like their New Orleans cuisine with Middle Eastern touches, THE SHEIK OF ARABY:

Tasty (as is the food at Brenda’s)!

May your happiness increase!

GAUCHO GOES TO BRENDA’S (June 9, 2013)

The gypsy jazz group GAUCHO is flexible — it is often a trio of guitarist / composer / singer Dave Ricketts, string bassist Ari Munkres, and accordionist / pianist Rob Reich.  Then it can expand to a sextet, with guitarist Michael Groh, reedman Ralph Carney, and percussionist Elizabeth Goodfellow — or other permutations I haven’t yet witnessed.

On Sunday, June 9, the trio of Ricketts, Munkres, and Reich shared the stage with Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, and Jared Engel at    Brenda’s, an estimable “French soul food restaurant” in San Francisco: 652 Polk Street (at Eddy).  Brenda’s deserves applause not only because GAUCHO has a regular Sunday afternoon-into-night gig there, but because its “French soul food” translates as their version of New Orleans food in substantial well-seasoned portions.  (My muffaletta hero came with a small dish of spicy watermelon rind pickle — five stars’ plus — and all around me people were happily devouring their food.  And Brenda’s blog even provides the recipe for the pickles!)

Here are two performances by GAUCHO from that night.  I would have stayed for more, but we had a recording session to go to — the results of which, I hope, will emerge sooner rather than later.

DOUBLE BARREL, Dave’s composition — using the KING OF THE ZULUS vamp as a starting point — rocks:

SHINE, the old favorite:

Come to Brenda’s on a Sunday (5-8) for hot food and hotter jazz.  And to keep up with GAUCHO, click here.

May your happiness increase!

APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH, or NEW YORK JOYS (2013)

Every time I get ready to declare, “OK, I will spend the rest of my life happily in California,” New York crooks a dainty finger at me and whispers, “Not so fast, fellow.  I have something for you.”

ny skyline

These are some of the musicians I was able to see, hear, and video during April 2013 — an incomplete list, in chronological order:

Svetlana Shmulyian, Tom Dempsey, Rob Garcia, Asako Takasaki, Michael Kanan, Michael Petrosino, Joel Press, Sean Smith, Tardo Hammer, Steve Little, Hilary Gardner, Ehud Asherie, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Kevin Dorn, James Chirillo, Brian Nalepka, Dan Block, Danny Tobias, Matt Munisteri, Neal Miner, Catherine Russell, Jon-Erik Kellso, Lee Hudson, Lena Bloch, Frank Carlberg, Dave Miller, Billy Mintz, Daryl Sherman, Scott Robinson, Harvie S, Jeff Barnhart, Gordon Au, John Gill, Ian Frenkel, Lew Green, Marianne Solivan, Mark McLean, Dennis Lichtman, Tamar Korn, Raphael McGregor, Skip Krevens, Andrew Hall, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Scott Robinson, Pat O’Leary, Andy Brown, Giancarlo Massu, Luciano Troja, Rossano Sportiello, Randy Sandke, Harry Allen, Dennis Mackrel, Joel Forbes.

And I saw them at the Back Room Speakeasy, the Metropolitan Room, Smalls, the Bickford Theatre, the Ear Inn, Symphony Space, the Finaldn Center, Jazz at Kitano, Jeff and Joel’s House Party, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jalopy Theatre, Casa Italiana, and Zankel Recital Hall.

T.S. Eliot had it wrong.  Just another average jazz-month in New York.

P.S.  This isn’t to slight my California heroes, nay nay — among them Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Chris Dawson, Marty Eggers, Katie Cavera, Kally Price, Leon Oakley, Mal Sharpe, Tom Schmidt, John Reynolds, Melissa Collard, Ari Munkres, GAUCHO, PANIQUE, Bill Carter, Jim Klippert, JasonVanderford, Bill Reinhart, Dan Barrett . . . .

May your happiness increase.

GAUCHO and TAMAR KORN CELEBRATE at AMNESIA (Aug. 29, 2012)

The cheerfully flexible gypsy-jazz organization known as GAUCHO celebrated its tenth anniversary at Amnesia (853 Valencia Street, San Francisco:  amnesia) on August 29, 2012.  Traditionally a tenth anniversary is celebrated with gifts of tin or aluminum . . . I hope that the tip basket brimming with bills stood in successfully for “tin.”  But the crowd at Amnesia gave GAUCHO and Tamar Korn an even better present — a warm reception.

And the videos that follow prove how deeply GAUCHO and Tamar were welcomed in San Francisco.  Occasionally the warmth proved physically exuberant: I and my tripod and camera were in fairly constant danger of being treated like Dorothy Gale by some positively athletic dancing couples.  But everyone survived.

For this celebration, GAUCHO consisted of leader – guitarist – composer Dave Ricketts and the eminent swing guitarist Michael Groh in tandem, with the vigorous reedman Ralph Carney, the wily Rob Reich on accordion and piano, the ingenious Ari Munkres on string bass.

They began the evening with an energized I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

Then one of Dave’s compositions that has reached a larger audience through the cinema, DOUBLE BARREL:

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA was anything but wistful Midwestern nostalgia:

Then Tamar joined them for the cautionary yet swinging COMES LOVE:

She followed with a romping DINAH:

And harking back to what I perceive as her roots, Berlin’s RUSSIAN LULLABY:

Finally, she offered two Ricketts (melody) – Korn (lyrics) collaborations:

PEARL:

SING ON:

This party also served to announce once again Gaucho’s new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART (all originals by Dave) with contributions from Leon Oakley, cornet; Clint Baker, various instruments; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums; Marty Eggers, tuba; Dave and Michael.  Look for it wherever better music is sold — in this case, gauchojazz.

May your happiness increase.

SWINGING WITH GAUCHO at YOSHI’S (July 9, 2012)

A little more than a month ago, the Beloved and I were invited to the very beautiful jazz club Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, for an evening with the singular Gypsy jazz group GAUCHO — in celebration of their newest CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART.  For this performance, GAUCHO was a sextet of Dave Ricketts, guitar and composer; Michael Groh, rhythm guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Rob Reich, piano and accordion; Ralph Carney, saxophone and clarinet; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums.  And there were special guests: Leon Oakley, trumpet; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Marty Eggers, tuba.

You’ll hear instantly that GAUCHO, although paying homage to Django Reinhardt, goes its own engaging way with deep feeling, never offering speed-of-light copies of treasured Thirties records in lieu of inventiveness.

COQUETTE:

MISS MYSTERY / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

SOME OF THESE DAYS:

PART-TIME SWEETHEART:

NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT:

TIN MAN WALTZ:

To find out more about this fine band, both swinging and subtle, visit gauchojazz.  And to buy their new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART, you can have the double pleasure of hearing them in person, or you can find Dave on Facebook here.

What a delightful band!

May your happiness increase.

HONEY, DO!

Yet another excursion with Louis Armstrong — backwards to 1933 and 1966 or so and forwards to yesterday, July 7, 2012.

Step One: HONEY, DO! (lyrics by Andy Razaf, music by J.C. Johnson).  It’s customary to lament how poor Louis’ bands were, but this version is swinging away for the first part of the song.  And what Louis is doing, so joyously, is beyond description:

In 1966 — more or less — department stores in suburbia all had flourishing record departments.  I don’t know which store it was, but I remember as someone too young to drive a car going off with my mother to some store (more furniture than anything) for something she needed . . . and saying to her, “Ma, I’ll be right back,” running off to the record department, forsaking all others, heading to the Louis browser, snatching up this RCA Victor anthology with one side devoted to his recordings in the early Thirties, the other to his 1946-7 efforts, giving the cashier my $2.67 or an equivalent amount, and racing back to my mother (who had bought her pillows or bowls by that time) . . . I was guilty but exultant as she stood there — with that look of mild reproach and concern that I already knew too well: translation: “Did you have to spend your allowance on another record?”  Yes, Ma, I did.  I love you and you were right but now I have HONEY, DO! — nearly fifty years later, too.  A good return on $2.67.

Fast forward to yesterday, where the Beloved and I were digging Mal Sharpe and The Big Money in Jazz Band at the No Name Bar in Sausalito.  Circumstances prevented my video-recording, but I have a story for you all instead.  Superb music from Mal, Jim Gammon, trumpet; Rob Reich, accordion; Bill DeKuiper, guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Pete Magadini, drums.  A vigrously rocking band that also showed off deep subtlety — a version of I GOT IT BAD with its first chorus a duet for Jim (plunger-muted) and Ari.

Early in the final set, Mal (trusting the audience a bit) asked if anyone had a request.  STARDUST was suggested but politely turned aside for the moment, as was I DOUBLE DARE YOU.  But the latter suggestion turned Mal’s thoughts to Louis, and Pete suggested HONEY, DO! — which Jim took up with ease and pleasure.  The other members of the band weren’t entirely familiar with this obscure song, but they fell in gamely and the No Name Bar was rocking as the BMIJ turned the corner into the second chorus . . . and then Mal, bless him, put down his trombone and belted out the lyrics with skill and abandon.

I’m still grinning.  Maybe I can ask them to play it again when I have a video camera handy.  You should have been there!

May your happiness increase.

A TRIP TO AVALON with TAMAR KORN and GAUCHO

Suitcases not required.  And you won’t have to show your driver’s license to the pleasant TSA man or woman . . . simply let these superb musicians take you to an ideal place (care of Puccini, Al Jolson, and Benny Goodman).

The travel agent-magicians in charge here are Gaucho, the wondrous swing / gypsy ensemble that has been certified one hundred percent cliche-free by the FDA.  Seen here are guitarists Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh; accordionist Rob Reich; reedman Ralph Carney; cornetist Leon Oakley; string bassist Ari Munkres; percussionist Pete Devine; vocalist Tamar Korn.  This video (beautifully done, thanks to Porto Franco Records) was recorded in 2010 as part of Gaucho’s album PEARL, featuring Tamar. The band is now raising money for their fifth CD, which will feature another great young vocalist – Georgia English, who has studied music with Gaucho’s bandleader since she was 8 years old, and is now a student at Berklee School of Music.  The CD is on its way: I believe it will be out in the first part of July.

See you in Avalon . . .

May your happiness increase.

BLINK AND THEY’RE GONE: GAUCHO COMES TO BROOKLYN (October 2011)

Who or what is GAUCHO?

Without a lengthy explanation, they are a wonderful small band — their main allegiance is to the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly, but they aren’t Gypsy drones, running up and down the fretboard in defiance of melody and common sense.  Usually they have two guitars (solo and rhythm), an accordion, string bass, and friends.

Here’s a sample — GAUCHO performing AFTER YOU’VE GONE — Rob Reich on accordion, Ari Munkres on string bass, Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh on guitars,  with our own Tamar Korn:

San Franciscans are already used to having GAUCHO in their midst, and the first time I heard some version of this group was in 2005 on a visit to that city — I believe at Amnesia.

But for those New Yorkers who aren’t flying westward any time soon, GAUCHO has come to us.  Here are the dates (on short notice, for which I apologize):

Monday, October 3:
Pete’s Candy Store, 10 pm
709 Lorimer St, Brooklyn

Wednesday, October 5
Radegast Hall and Biergarten, 8 pm
113 N 3rd St, Brooklyn

Thursday, October 6
Downhouse Lounge, 9 pm
250 Ave X, Brooklyn

Saturday, October 8
Zebulon 8 pm
258 Wythe Ave

GAUCHO is slightly smaller than usual (you know, weight restrictions on airline travel).  The Brooklyn version is  Dave Ricketts (guitar); Rob Reich (accordion);
Ari Munkres (bass); Yair Evnine (cello, guitar).

And who knows who might want to sit in?  Miss Korn, her ethereal self, lives in Brooklyn.  GAUCHO swings mightily and tenderly, and they are worth seeing.  I guarantee it.

KALLY PRICE IS POWERFULLY HERSELF

Kally Price is a fully realized singer, not for the timid, someone hard to ignore.  She doesn’t create background music.

Price has a controlled emotional power than is remarkable.  It’s not overacting or “dramatic.”  Rather, she has an impassioned definiteness that comes from within; it’s not something she learned how to do in acting school.  She doesn’t shout or rant, but it’s clear she is not going to let anything get in her way when she’s delivering the messages contained in a song.

I had not heard of her before our California trip, but many people told me about her.  They went out of their way to let me know she wasn’t formulaic or ordinary.

I knew IF I HAD A RIBBON BOW from Maxine Sullivan’s wistful 1937 version, and it had always struck me as poignantly girlish: if I had a ribbon bow, then Prince Charming would come and find me.  The singer of this folk song had not been able to learn much about assertiveness training, had never heard of Friedan or Steinem, so the song struck notes of wishing rather than action.  Kally Price’s rendering is powerful, and you imagine her both singing the song (she is faithful to it) and examining it at arm’s length: pity this poor girl in what I imagine is her best frock, waiting for someone to come and love her, much like one of Toni Morrison’s doomed little girls in THE BLUEST EYE.  Kally performs the song with fidelity but is also able to suggest her frustration at being confined to the constricting world of such narrow hopes and aspirations.

If my deconstructing of this text doesn’t appeal to you, sit back from your computer and witness a forceful performance by a musical actress with great skill and undeniable passion.  Her accompanists are Leon Oakley, cornet; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Rob Reich (at the piano instead of the accordion), and Ari Munkres on string bass.  This performance was recorded at San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House in May 2010, just before Kally recorded her second CD as a leader:

She’s someone serious — not to be taken lightly!

The other performance from the Red Poppy is a fascinating merging of an a cappella I WANT TO LIVE and Price’s reimagining of RHYTHM — not the Gershwins’ classic but the 1933 Spirits of Rhythm perpetual-motion machine.  Again, whether she’s creating a ferocious soliloquy or she’s swinging deeply, Kally Price is someone to take notice of:

I’m making room on my shelves — between Bent Persson and Sammy Price — for Kally Price’s CD . . . coming soon to you from Porto Franco Records.

TAMAR KORN / “GAUCHO” IN SAN FRANCISCO

In the jazz world, new “Gypsy Swing” groups seem to proliferate.  Gaucho is one of the best of the Django-inspired small swing groups, a San Francisco staple, inventive and rocking.  They’ve recorded three CDs, each one delightfully consistent.  They are Dave Ricketts, Michael Groh, g; Rob Reich, acc; Ralph Carney, reeds; Ari Munkres, b; Pete Devine – d, perc, and Cheek-O-Phone (TM) — the last something you’ll have to see and hear in person.  “Gaucho,” incidentally, is the band’s version of “gadjo,” the term a Gypsy would bestow on a non-Gypsy.   

Here are two neat video clips that I just found out about, recorded in atmospheric black and white and HD at AMNESIA in San Francisco a few months back.  The YouTube channel is “PortoFrancoRecords,” a label that will be issuing a new Gaucho CD in the fall. 

AND these two videos (and the CD to come) feature the eloquent and always surprising TAMAR KORN.  Need I say more?    

I associate “The Anniversary Song” with a lugubrious reading in waltz-time, and it has always been credited to Al Jolson, who (not surprisingly) did little to create it aside from recording it.  Here it’s offered in a lilting swing four-four, with Tamar singing, dancing (to the accompaniment of Ralph’s adventurous clarinet solo) and improvising with soprano riffs to conclude:

“I Surrender Dear” comes from Mr. Crosby and Mr. Armstrong, but Tamar makes it her own, as always, floating on Gaucho’s impasioned pulse and invention:

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, whose new website will have a variety of independent music from swing jazz to modern permutations: http://www.portofrancorecords.com/videoblog.  Peter tells me that many musical things are happening quite fast, so there will be more to come very soon!  And energetic YouTube surfers will a number of other clips of Tamar and Gaucho in performance from “charlestonalley,” a friend of swing jazz and swing dance.