The jazz histories don’t tell us that jazz came up the river to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but it would have been more than delightfully plausible on the afternoon of Sunday, April 23, 2023, when the Pennsylvania Jazz Society put on a rewarding program at Congregation Beth Sholom in that city.
The Stars (or perhaps the Wise Men?) who came there were Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Arnt Arntzen, vocal, banjo, guitar; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium (or baritone horn); Vince Giordano, vocal, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone, lowboy cymbal.
I posted the first half-dozen performances from this session here. Delicious.
And here’s more!
Vince sings TAKE YOUR TOMORROW:
Berlin’s ALL BY MYSELF:
The Twenties roar again, with CRAZY RHYTHM:
WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM (I’ll have this band to remember):
For Bix, the ODJB, and Eddie, AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:
I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, with our without BABY:
and finally (for this posting) a little educational interlude that I’ve titled (after Danny) SHOW AND TELL:
There will be a Part Three — just as lovely as this. Stay tuned. And thanks to the generous people of the Pennsylvania Jazz Society for making this happen.
Yes, the title of this post may seem a blasphemy. But it’s true.
On April 23, 2023, four musical stars came — thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society — to Congregation Brith Sholom on West Macada Road in, yes, Bethlehem Pennsylvania, and filled the room with lovely joyous sounds. They are Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Arnt Arntzen, vocal, banjo, guitar; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium (or baritone horn); Vince Giordano, vocal, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone, lowboy cymbal.
I caught all the sights and sounds in my video camera, and will share them with you in three installments. My hope is that you follow the pleasant activities of the Pennsylvania Jazz Society, and that you follow these eminent musicians.
Here are a half-dozen beauties.
AS LONG AS I LIVE:
LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME:
Arnt sings WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE:
Randy’s feature, ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:
And, to make a neat half-dozen, HAPPY FEET:
Unpretentious swinging music, whatever name you wish to hang on it (mostly the “Great American Songbook” treated with love and heat). And there will be more to come: watch this space.
The Pennsylvania Jazz Society will be presenting these four heroes in concert on Sunday, April 23, 2023, from 2 to 4:30, at Congregation Brith Sholom, 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18017. Admission is $15 for PJS members and first-timers; students always free. Cash and check, no credit cards. Snacks and beverages available.
Danny Tobias will bring his trumpet, Eb alto horn, and possibly his flugelhorn; Arnt Arntzen will bring his banjo and guitar and will sing; Vince Giordano will have his aluminum string bass and perhaps assorted instruments, and he may also be persuaded to sing . . . and they will bring an esteemed friend, Randy Reinhart, with trumpet and trombone.
It will be glorious. How do I know? Well, I’ve heard Danny, Randy, and Vince since 2004 and 2005; Arnt is a recent treasure but no less splendid. I don’t have evidence of this particular quartet, but you can extrapolate from the videos I offer here.
Arnt, Danny, and Vince have a working group — Arnie and his Rhythm — that performs in the tri-state area. I caught them at Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats and brought back this lovely music.
This sunny multifaceted trio also has come out with its debut CD, so prepare yourself to go home with gifts that can be replayed many times.
Now, here’s Danny and Randy — at another PJS gig, with Mark Shane, Pat Mercuri, Joe Plowman, and Jim Lawlor. Great friends who complement each other so well:
TEA FOR TWO:
If you think you might have something better to do on Sunday, April 23, I leave you to your illusions. But you might want to reconsider.
Look at those faces: three happy creative people, making music, spreading joy for a crowd enjoying their eggs and mimosas to an inspired soundtrack. That’s Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats on a Sunday brunch-afternoon, and the three swing Muses are Arnt Arntzen, banjo, voice, and occasional comedy; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, voice. They’re that wondrous thing, a working band. Arnt calls them ARNIE AND HIS RHYTHM, but I think they need a more exalted name, like SPLENDID MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROMULGATION OF JOY, although that’s too long to fit on a gig announcement. DELEGATES OF PLEASURE is also in the running. But I digress.
Here’s some joy.
When I walked into Giovanni’s last Sunday, this trio was concluding their first song, a hot number. I said hello, was taken to a seat, and began to set up my camera while hearing Arnt say to Danny and Vince, “Do you know THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU”? — that very heartfelt Ray Noble ballad that “bands” don’t always play. I was very excited and managed to begin filming about one-quarter through this very tender offering:
Romance of a different sort (“I have bought / the home and ring / and everything!”) as Vince sings and plays MARGIE:
Something very sweet — SUGAR by Arnie — “She’s vaccinated!”:
MUSKRAT RAMBLE, so often smudged, here with all its different strains treated with hot reverence:
And finally (for this set) my national anthem, WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, rendered with love, not caricature:
What a glorious group: harmony not only of notes, but of spirit.
But wait! There’s more!
Arnt has just announced a Thursday-night residency for this trio and other versions of it, at Barbes in Brooklyn: on December 30, 10 PM to midnight, he and brother Evan will play together; on January 6, the trio above, from 7 to 9:30; on January 13, the multi-talented Colin Hancock and Tal Ronen will join Arnt; and more to come. I’m looking forward to this and hope some JAZZ LIVES readers will join me. Without being too didactic, venues with music but without audiences soon drop the music: as you know.
Three lyrical cats making great music al fresco in Brooklyn, New York: Arnt Arntzen, banjo, vocal; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, lowboy cymbal, vocal. Those venerable pop classics feel fresh yet familiar in their hands.
As the weather gets colder, the trio has moved inside. And the food is good.
An easy rendition of a classic — popular as well as jazz — LAZY RIVER, by Sidney Arodin and Hoagy Carmichael . . . performed on a lazy Sunday afternoon by Arnt Arntzen, banjo and vocal; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, lowboy cymbal:
Want melodic lyricism with your eggs Benedict? These fellows know just how to provide it.
And a side-note about Arnt’s singing: I caught him between sets and said how much I liked his sweet, unadorned, open-hearted approach. He smiled and said, “That’s the only approach I have,” which is both charming and true.
I promise more video evidence from this delightful trio. But better yet — if you can, get yourself there to savor these brunch joys in person. Restorative as all get-out. And this gig happens on a Sunday. Monday and Tuesday nights, Vince and Arnt can be found at Bond 45, making merry with the full Nighthawks’ aggregation. If you’ve allowed yourself to forget how happy live music can make us, it is time to shake the dust from your shoes and remember, in person.
Last Sunday was my second visit to Giovanni’s — reachable from the F train — and I had a wonderful time. I know the three luminaries above, and so I was encouraged to set up my camera and I was able, through decades of experience, to eat and film at the same time without my camera descending into the soup or pasta. (By the way, the food is excellent, and I am fussy.)
The band played three sets from noon to 3, with jazz classics, Berlin, Carmichael, Waller, Shelton Brooks, and more: a hugely entertaining trio. Passers-by danced on the sidewalk; people applauded, and money was placed in the tip jar, which all combined to suggest that Western civilization is not moving into the abyss in fourth gear.
I have only one performance to share with you at the moment, but there will be more.
It was the first tune of the afternoon, and I was slightly unready, so the camera sniffs around before it finds the best spot, but I am so charmed by this rendition of Irving Berlin’s ALWAYS that I wouldn’t want a second take.
Arnt is a very discerning banjoist — no flash and smash for him — a “one-man rhythm gang,” and a sweet candid elegant singer. If you don’t know the excellence of Vince Giordano, on display in so many ways for a number of years, I have to ask (in the words of Cole Porter) “Where have you been?” with the emphasis on the second word. He drives any band with his gleaming aluminum string bass; he is Rollini-eloquent on the bass saxophone, and a fine swinging singer. (Incidentally, the Nighthawks have been performing for several Monday and Tuesday nights at Bond 45, so you now have a place to go to for Vince’s full orchestra, which has been greatly missed.) Danny is a brassman other trumpet players praise for his direct melodic lyricism: quite a band!
ALWAYS. And here, children, comes the lesson. Establishments like Giovanni’s employ live musicians because they know (and hope) that music played by human beings will attract people to come and dine and spend money, thus allowing the restaurant to continue, to pay its bills, its staff, its vendors. Business, and nothing shameful about it. (I commend them: it would be so much easier to NOT employ human beings who make music.) In doing so, however, they send joy into the air. Even the people at the next table who seemed to pay no attention to the music knew in some visceral way that their eggs Benedict tasted better because of the genuine soundtrack. And they give the musicians we love funding and employment.
I trust you can see where this is heading. I write to the people who live near someplace where live music is played, who can spend money for their morning coffee, their croissant, or the like.
I think, perhaps immodestly, that in creating and posting these videos I am doing a service to the music and the musicians. (I also put money in the tip jar and I buy food and drink at any establishment I frequent.) Your watching the video is spiritually lovely; you receive the good spiritual vibrations the musicians create and transmit.
But merely watching the videos at home and never actively supporting the establishments that feature live music does little for the economic realities of the situation described above.
I do not call for moral self-flagellation if you can’t get out of the house or you can’t afford to pay for a jazz brunch: some dear friends fall into this category. But I see so few self-defined “jazz fans” actively supporting the music by their presence on a regular basis.
YouTube and Spotify do nothing for the artists. And, for better or worse, buying a CD or paying for a digital download of your departed hero does nothing for living artists who are trying to stay solvent. When some “fans” ask mournfully, “How come there’s no live jazz at X’s anymore?” the answer will be found by looking in the medicine-chest mirror. I understand “I hope to get to New York City sometime soon,” as a reality, but it doesn’t help any musician pay her rent. As Greely Walton always used to say, “You can’t drive the car if you don’t fill the tank.”
I know, I get carried away, but ask any musician if this is true. You may go now.
The purveyors of joy were Colin, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal.
I’ve already posted MILENBERG JOYS, BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN, CLARINET MARMALADE, WHISPERING, EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT, and YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT — one pleasure for each day of the week.
Here are two Twenties classics, glorious hot music, the last evidence of what was a stunning evening.
and FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE:
Now. This concert ended (for those who were there) and the nine performances I’ve posted are also, in their own way, glorious yet finite. Suppose you thirst for more of the hot music Colin and friends create? If you live in New York City or nearby, you can visit him on various gigs . . . but you might also want to have a little shiny plastic hour of superb joys for your very own. Hence, I urge you to investigate his new CD on the Rivermont Records label, COLLEGIATE.
and here’s what I had to say about it just a few days ago:
Music like this nourishes the soul, so it’s not surprising that many jazz classics are — actually or metaphorically — connected to food. Here are three stirring examples. Dig in!
HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN, in honor of Freddie Keppard:
Albanie Falletta and Arnt Arntzen have fun with BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, thinking of Louis and May Alix:
And Colin’s second foray into that new technology: CLARINET MARMALADE, two ways:
Those are the basic food groups: ingest these portions of joy and you’ll have your hot nourishment for today. And in case you missed the previous spiritual sustenance from that evening, here it is:
and even more:
And — this just in, from Colin, whom I am honored to say is a pal — news of a Father’s Day gig: “It’s myself on cornet and reeds, Ricky Alexander on more reeds, Josh Dunn on guitar (and maybe banjo), and Julian Johnson on drums and washboard. Gonna be doing some hot Jimmie Noone style stuff as well as just a bunch of good old good ones! 1-3 at Freehold in the Park, on the North side of Union Square.” That’s Greenwich Village, New York. Details (and reservations) here.
Here is some more of the uplifting music performed on June 10 at the Morris Museum by my hero-friends, purveyors of joy: Colin Hancock, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal.
WHISPERING, with a perfectly idiomatic and swinging vocal by Mike Davis:
Good advice about monogamous high-fidelity: YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT (OR YOU CAN’T SEE MAMA AT ALL):
And Bennie Moten’s EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT, which does:
In case you missed it the first time around, here’s MILENBERG JOYS — live, then on “the wonder of the age,” the new-fangled phonograph:
Above is my ecstatic review of the whole concert, and there’s still more to come. “What a night!” as we say.
It was a wonderful evening, and this post is simply to say so — a review of the Broadway opening the next morning — and to share the joys. The event, to give it its official title, was SOUNDS OF THE JAZZ AGE with COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT, and it was held on the back deck of the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, overseen by the very kind and efficient Brett Messenger.
The purveyors of joy were Colin, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal. The scope of the program was narrow in time — perhaps 1920-1928 — but transcontinentally and stylistically broad. Arranged passages sat neatly next to explosive hot improvisations; dance-band melodies, “hot dance” rhythms, and small-band ecstasies nestled comfortably against the setting sun as they did in real life Jazz Age dance halls, speakeasies, malt shoppes, and recording studios.
They started off with FIDGETY FEET, with no lesson in sight, except to demonstrate, “We are here to play lively living music,” and they succeeded. Next, Art Hickman’s pretty 1920 standard ROSE ROOM, its origin in San Francisco, which has had a long life, both in its own clothing and as IN A MELLOTONE — displaying a lovely passage scored for two saxophones, in this case Dan and Troy. Someone wandering by might have thought, “This is tea-dance music,” but it had a hot pulse with rocking solos, and the genre-sliding was more than entertaining. From Hickman, Colin moved to the great star of Twenties music — call it and him what you will — Paul Whiteman — for an idiomatic and swinging WHISPERING with a patented crooning chorus by Mike Davis. I know this sentence is unsubtle, but Colin and his Eight made no artificial distinctions between “sweet” music as played by white bands and “hot” music played by their black counterparts, acknowledging without lecturing us that there was no dividing line between the two.
Colin then nodded to the great Twenties phenomenon of recordings of the blues and bent that definition to include a jolly YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT, which is, after all, good advice, if Mama wants all that attention. Bennie Moten’s frolicsome EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT and LOUISIANA, subtle homage to both Whiteman and Beiderbecke, followed — the band hitting on all cylinders, the audience enthusiastic, the sky darkening (as it should) and the stage lighting properly illuminating the players.
I can’t have been the only one in the audience who was hungry (it had been a long ride to Morristown) so I was happy to hear two songs about food, however indirectly: the Keppard-flavored HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN and Louis’ Hot Five I WANT A BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, with hilarious vocals by Albanie and Arnt. Vince sang THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE in a truly hot version (Dan evoked Frank Teschemacher) that summoned up the Austin High Gang. In honor of Red Nichols and the whole tradition of Sam Lanin, there was FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE.
A “Jazz Age” concert typically would end with a lengthy rousing closer — this one took a slightly different turn, with fairly brief (although searing) renditions of MILENBERG JOYS and CLARINET MARMALADE not only played but recorded on the spot on a vintage phonograph — and the records played back on the spot. It was a wonderful demonstration of the new technology, great hot music (we applauded the live rendition, we applauded the record) and wonderful theatre.
I won’t praise every musician — you will hear for yourself — but the patriarchs of Twenties jazz were cheered and inspired by the youngbloods on the stand. And Colin (whose solos were intense and incendiary) found ways to show the depth and breadth of this music, avoiding the overused repertoire (no DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, for one) and sketching in a vast panorama of joyous sounds that moved all around the country and also — without slighting him — said politely, “Louis Armstrong brought his own way to play, but not everyone went in his direction all the time.”
Here’s MILENBERG JOYS, which shows off the band and Colin’s easy scholarship — history made alive and in delighted motion. I’ve edited the video so you at home don’t have to sit through the necessary non-musical portions. What a show!
The Morris Museum had held concerts on the Back Deck through the pandemic, cheers to them, so the singles and couples last night in their lawn chairs had a good deal of space. It was easy for me to imagine the heroic shades of the past — Louis and Jimmy Joy, Art Hickman and Jack Pettis, Red Nichols and Miff Mole, Sam Lanin and Ben Selvin, Ikey Robinson and Kaiser Marshall, George Johnson and Vic Berton, Adrian Rollini and Freddie Keppard, Eva Taylor and Clarence Williams, all the cats from the ODJB and the NORK, Bix and Tram, Bennie Moten and May Alix and a hundred others, comfortable in lawn chairs, grinning their faces off at the living energized evocation of the music they made about a hundred years ago.
“The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”
Were you there to share the joys? I hope so. Bless Colin, Vince, Dan, Troy, Mike, Julian, Albanie, Arnt — the heroes among us — and the enthusiastic audience.
And yes, there will be more videos. But . . . if you want more concerts, you have to leave your house.
I can’t speak for everyone, but the fourteen-month period after mid-March 2020 felt for me like a) being locked in the basement with very dim lighting; b) a dinner-theatre production of RIP VAN WINKLE; c) induced coma with meals, phone calls, and my computer; d) a long undefined stretch during which I could watch uplifting videos here; d) all of the above.
But I feel as if spiritual Reveille has sounded, and the way I know that is that live music has been more out-in-the-open than before. (I mean no offense to those gallant souls who swung out in the parks for months.) I’ve been to see and hear the EarRegulars three times in front of the Ear Inn on Sundays (1-3:30, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) and if the sun shines, I will be there this coming Sunday to say hello to heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, and Tal Ronen; I am going to the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 10, at 8 PM, to see Colin Hancock and his Red Hot Eight with Dan Levinson, Abanie Falletta, Arnt Arntzen, Vince Giordano, Mike Davis, Julian Johnson, and Troy Anderson (details here). On June 13 I am driving to Pennsylvania (thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society) to see and hear Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Joe Plowman, Pat Mercuri, and Jim Lawlor (details here).
And, one week later, June 17 — Evan Arntzen and Jon-Erik Kellso, with Dalton Ridenhour, Tal Ronen, and Mark McLean, playing music from the new Arntzen-Kellso dazzler, the CD COUNTERMELODY. Details here. Important, rewarding, exciting.
First, Bennie Moten’s 18th STREET STRUT:
and this, with the verse, no less:
Now, some words of encouragement. Some of you will understandably say, “I live too far away, the pandemic is not over, and Michael will go there in my stead and bring his video camera.” Some of that is true, although I am taking a busman’s holiday and do not expect to video Evan’s concert, for contractual reasons. (And even Michael knows, although he does not wallow in this truth, that a video is not the same thing as being there.)
I know it’s tactless to write these words, but wouldn’t you like to experience some music that isn’t on this lit rectangle? More fun, and everyone is larger. And you can, after the music is over, approach the musicians and say, “We love you. Thank you for continuing on your holy quest where we can be uplifted by it. Thank you for your devotion.” If this strikes you as presumptuous, I apologize, and the Customer Service Associate will be happy to refund your purchase price plus tax.
I hope to see you out and about. We need to celebrate the fact of our re-emergence into the sunshine.
Many compact discs are like visits to a new restaurant with a tasting menu. The listener has course after course brought to them, and with luck, every dish is not only delightful in itself but part of a larger experience. And one makes a mental note to go back and bring friends. Sometimes, of course, one beckons to the waitperson and says, “Please, can we skip ahead? I’m not happy with this. If you’d just bring me the flourless chocolate cake and the check, that would be great.” And the CD goes into that purgatory between give-to-a-friend-or-the-thrift-store-or keep-for-the-moment-but-not-forever.
The new CD, COUNTERMELODY (Dot Time Records), by Evan Arntzen and esteemed friends, isn’t a meal: it’s a brightly-colored, many-sided journey. Details here and here if the names above have already convinced you.
Before you read a word more, two samples which will reveal much and reward more:
SOLITARITY, by Evan:
and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, sung by Catherine Russell:
Although the terms “old” and “new” are dangerously weighted and too binary, COUNTERMELODY is a shining showcase for “old” music (nearly a hundred years old) played as “new,” and “new” music that passionately embraces “old” traditions. SOLITARITY is delightfully weird — that’s a compliment — but it also sounds so much like a New Orleans funeral, mournful and exultant at once. And to borrow from Billy Wilder, each of the musicians here has a face, a vivid, glowing singularity — a set of big voices, and I don’t simply mean Catherine Russell’s combination of trumpet and cello and full orchestra. Speaking of singers, Evan’s vocal rendition of GEORGIA CABIN is perfectly dreamy. I don’t want him to put down his horns, but he could do a lovely vocal album.
But back to the journey I was describing. The CD begins with a half-dozen “traditional” songs — MUSKRAT RAMBLE, 18th STREET STRUT, CAMP MEETING BLUES, GEORGIA CABIN, PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES, and WHEN ERASTUS PLAYS HIS OLD KAZOO. Connoisseurs will check off the homages to Ory, Moten, Oliver, Bechet, Louis, and Dodds. But these are not formulaic choices. They come from a deep immersion in the repertoire and a desire to do the music homage in its full glory, not in the eleven tunes that everyone plays. The performances are totally energized but also respectful of the original outlines of the songs and of performance practice. The ensembles are strong (having two trumpets who can kitten-tussle in mid-air is a great thing) and the solos fierce or fiercely tender.
Then, SMILES, usually played and sung with a certain amount of sentimentality, whether it’s by Charles La Vere or Chick Bullock: the musical equivalent of a 1925 Valentine’s postcard, cherubs and hearts crowding in. But not here:
That’s two minutes and thirty-four seconds of exuberance. My initial reaction was “WHAT?!” But I was properly smiling as Evan and Charlie chased each other around the backyard, twin five-year olds who have eaten too much Halloween candy. Honoring the innovators implies a certain amount of possibly-disrespectful but loving innovation: the result is immensely restorative. While my nerve endings were still tingling, I had the rare pleasure of hearing Catherine Russell sing IF YOU WERE MINE as no one, including Billie, ever sang it, complete with the verse, which I’d never heard. A properly churchy DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE follows, then originals by Halloran, Kellso, Benny Green, and Evan . . . and the disc concludes with two brief cylinder recordings of AFTER YOU’VE GONE and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, created by the band and the master of hot archaisms, Colin Hancock.
After that, I wanted a glass of ice water, and, after a pause, to play COUNTERMELODY again, and tell my friends, as I am doing here.
So don’t be the last one on your block to walk around humming and grinning because of COUNTERMELODY. You can receive it in its lovely package (fine notes by producer Scout Opatut) or digitally, here or here.
Postscript: someone said of me, with an edge, “Michael only writes good reviews,” to which I responded, when I heard, “I only review good music.” COUNTERMELODY is over the moon and beyond the beyonds in that way.
Mara Kaye, holding the bright light of her voice and her passions, shines out at us — with the wise emotional assistance of Arnt Arntzen, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass; Evan Arntzen, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet. All of this revelation took place at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, last year, November 19, 2019. Ages ago, but we live in hope that it can and will return:
I hope we’re all living the best we can, although it is our privilege and burden to make up our own lyrics and our own tempo.
The place where it all happened, and we are hopeful these joys will come again. Thanks to Mike Zielenewski, Christine Santelli, and Matthew “Fat Cat” Rivera, blues and jazz had a cozy nest here.
These days, I find myself moaning and growling more than usual, and I think I am not unique. So here is moral musical empathic support.
The blues — Victoria Spivey’s DETROIT MOAN — in living color, rendered with great conviction by Mara Kaye; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet and mutabilities; Evan Arntzen, tenor saxophone; Arnt Arntzen, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass — at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, on October 24, 2019.
I hope you don’t find Mara’s line “I can’t eat beans no more,” that culinary lamentation, too personally relevant.
And if you are not Facebook-averse or -phobic, visit Mara’s site: she and guitarist Tim “Snack” McNalley have been holding at-home-West-Coast-Saturday-recitals that I know you will enjoy. A sample, here.
When I first met Mara Kaye, on the other side of the continent, about six years ago, she was a fervent advocate of “other people’s blues,” often the chansons of Victoria Spivey, Ida Cox, and Memphis Minnie. Happily she continues to perform these songs, but she’s also added wonderful swing classics to her repertoire, many harking back to the Billie Holiday recordings of the Thirties and early Forties.
Here’s one, quite famous, that she renders with swing, joy, and conviction — accompanied by a splendid group of improvising stars: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Arnt Arntzen, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass.
All of this happened at the end of a Cafe Bohemia Jazz Quartet gig — at the downtown home of happy sounds, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City. And I felt Irving, Fred, Ginger, Ella, and Louis looking on approvingly.
That music is good news to me. But the good news continues: tomorrow, Thursday, February 6, Mara will be returning to Cafe Bohemia, starting at 8 PM, joined by Jon-Erik Kellso, Brian Nalepka, string bass, and Tim McNalley, guitar, although so far it seems that the stairs are too narrow to allow Mara to bring that lovely bathtub.
Those who understand pleasure and enlightenment can buy tickets here.
If I learned that a few dear friends were going to drop by in fifteen minutes, I would rush around tidying, straightening out the bed, looking to see what you could serve them . . . a flurry of immediate anxiety (“Does the bathtub need to be cleaned and can I do it in the next two minutes?” “Where will people sit?”) mixed with the pleasurable anticipation of their appearance. As an aside, JAZZ LIVES readers who wish to see the apartment — equal parts record store, video studio, yard sale, and library — will have to make an appointment.
Since I “live” at Cafe Bohemia (15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York) only intermittently, and it’s already tidy, thus, not my problem, I could simply relax into a different kind of pleasurable anticipation. It happened again when Jon-Erik Kellso began to invite people up on to the bandstand near the end of the evening of January 2, 2020 — another of the Thursday sessions that cheer me immensely. The result reminded me of some nights at the 54th Street Eddie Condon’s when guests would come by and perform.
Let me give you the Dramatis Personae for that night and then we can proceed to two of the marvels that took place. The House Band: Jon-Erik, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar / vocal; Sean Cronin, string bass / vocal. The Guests: Bria Skonberg, Geoff Power, trumpet; Arnt Arntzen, banjo; Jen Hodge, string bass. Arrangements were quickly and graciously made: Sean handed the bass to Jen for these two numbers; Bria stayed on, Geoff went off for one and came back for the second.
JAZZ ME BLUES, with Jon-Erik, Bria, Ricky, Albanie, Arnt, and Jen:
SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, with Albanie singing and Geoff back on the stand:
Much better than apartment-tidying, I’d say. And I’d wager that even the Lone YouTube Disliker, who hides in the bathroom with his laptop, might give his death-ray finger a rest. More beautiful sounds will come from Cafe Bohemia, so come down the stairs.
Wonderful music has been happening and continues to happen downstairs at the Barrow Street Alehouse on 15 Barrow Street, the hallowed ground of Cafe Bohemia. Here’s the first part of the splendid music created on October 24 by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, tenor saxophone, vocal; Jared Engel, string bass; Arnt Arntzen, guitar, banjo, vocal.
You’ll find so much to admire here: brilliant wise polyphony, hot and sweet soloing, respect for melodies and the courage to improvise. Beauty is there for those who can listen without preconceptions. And they swung from the first note of I DOUBLE DARE YOU:
Then, SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, with or without comma:
Something memorable from the pen of William H. Tyers:
Evan offers the verse all by himself, gorgeously:
When I grow too old to take the subway, I’ll have these sounds to remember:
Cafe Bohemia is also offering a variety of musical pleasures, including sets by trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and a rare session by the two sons of legendary jazz bassist Jymie Merritt — keep up to date with their schedule here on Facebook. Their website is still in gestation but will be thoroughly informative soon.
I will have much more from this band, and Jon-Erik will be back at Cafe Bohemia on November 14 and several more Thursdays in December. And — if that wasn’t enough — Matt Rivera will be creating his own clouds of joy by spinning 78s before and after: see here for the full story. The Hot Club is fully in operation Monday nights (by itself, which is wonderful) and alternating with the live music on Thursdays.
Thanks evermore to Mike Zielenewski and to Christine Santelli, aesthetic benefactors who are making all this joy possible. M.C. Escher would be happy to know that glorious sounds scrape the clouds even from the basement of 15 Barrow Street. S0 find your gloves and that nice scarf Auntie made for you — the one you never wear — and come join us.
The people spoke, “Can you post more from that October 17 session at Cafe Bohemia?” And I said, “Yes, I can.”
The sounds come from here (on the map, it’s 15 Barrow Street, New York City):
Good sounds, created by Evan Arntzen, tenor, Felix Lemerle, guitar, Andrew Millar, drums; Alex Claffy, string bass:
There are more beautiful notes to come from sessions at Cafe Bohemia, including one last night with Jon-Erik Kellso, Evan and Arnt Arntzen, Jared Engel, and a surprise visit from Mara Kaye. And more after that!
To me, this is living, breathing music. Listen and see if you don’t agree. And here’s one of the places it flourishes — Cafe Bohemia at 15 Barrow Street, New York City.
On October 17, Evan Arntzen (tenor sax, clarinet, vocal), Felix Lemerle (guitar), Alex Claffy (string bass), and Andrew Millar (drums) played two sets of lively, varied, heartfelt music. And here’s a sample, Charlie Parker’s MOOSE THE MOOCHE:
Cafe Bohemia is hallowed ground — more about that hereand here — BUT it is not a museum of archaic sounds. Nothing’s dusty at Cafe Bohemia, and that includes the tabletops and floor — the music is alive, and that counts a great deal.
And it’s happening tonight: get tickets for a splendid evening of vivid sounds with Jon-Erik Kellso, Jared Engel, Evan and Arnt Arntzen here (the early show) and here (the late show). Before and after the music, as well, the Fat Cat (that’s Matt Rivera) will be spinning his rare and delightful records, and you will hear vibrant music.
Because you love this art, come visit it in its native habitat.
Postscript: if any more skeptical readers ask, “Michael is pushing this new club with enthusiasm. I wonder how much they are paying him?” The answer, dear Skeptic, is that I am not asking to be paid nor am I being paid: I want people to share the joy of fine music in a friendly new place with deep roots. And as we know, sitting home soon means there is nowhere else to go but home.
New York City is full of vanished landmarks: one checks the address of what was once a place both sacred and thriving only to find that it is now a nail salon or, even more common, that its facade no longer exists: it’s now luxury apartments or university offices. But resurrection, however rare, is possible and delightful. The “new” CAFE BOHEMIA, thanks to the labors and vision of Mike Zieleniewski and Christine Santelli, is one of those urban(e) miracles.
There will be divine music there on Thursday, October 24, featuring Jon-Erik Kellso, Evan Arntzen, Arnt Arntzen, and Jared Engel as well as the Hot Club. Tickets here for the 7:00 show; here for the 9:30 show. And for those who “don’t do Facebook,” tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.
Now . . . .
and another view:
LIVE MUSIC for sure. And there’s also Fat Cat Matt Rivera’s HOT CLUB, which I’ve written about here.
But let’s go back to some of that LIVE MUSIC, performed on September 26, before the Club’s official opening — a delightful all-acoustic jazz and blues evening featuring Mara Kaye, vocal; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Brian Nalepka, string bass. Incidentally, only people who regularly attend live-music events know how rare “all-acoustic” is, and how pleasing.
BLACK SHEEP BLUES:
For Billie, I WISHED ON THE MOON:
Also for Lady Day, NO REGRETS:
“How sad I am,” with a grin, for MY MAN:
I’ll have more music from this night, also from October 17 (Evan, Andrew Millar, Felix Lemerle, Alex Claffy) but I urge you to tear yourselves away from those electronic devices and visit the Cafe on the 24th. It’s tactless to remind people but necessary that clubs, concerts, and festivals need actual human attendees (what a thought!) to survive. So . . . see you there!
Luckily for me, the splendid string bassist / singer / creative catalyst Jen Hodge is of a forgiving disposition, or else I would be nervous about reviewing her splendid EP, CHRISTMAS TREATS, on December 29. But my semester ended a week ago, and it took intensive therapy to get the student essays and grading out of my system.
So here I am, a week and more too late. BUT the good news is that the music — if you were to play it for someone who didn’t know it was Official Holiday Music — is simply gratifying hot melodic jazz, with surprising twists.
Here’s a sample — music that will be especially appropriate when the January credit card statement, all teeth and eyes, emerges:
CHRISTMAS TREATS features four tracks — including SANTA CLAUS BLUES, they are a Bechet-inspired IL EST NE, LE DIVIN ENFANT; JOLLY OLD SAINT NICHOLAS; GOD REST YE, MERRY GENTLEMEN. And they rock — the overall effect is hot lyricism with beautiful melodic statements and just the right blend of rocking collective improvisation.
Jen is very proud of the lineup — each track features musicians from Western Canada’s hot jazz scene, their ages from 18 to 89, including Jen herself, Brad Shigeta, Lloyd Arntzen, Sky Lambourne, Arnt Arntzen, Nick James, Aaron Levinson, Dave Taylor, Ben Henriques, Bonnie Northgraves, Kayden Gordon, Joseph Abbott, Don Ogilvie, Josh Roberts, Kelby MacNayr. Some of these names were completely new to me, but the music is convincing throughout.
Nothing on this diminutive but affecting disc is formulaic: neat arranging touches uplift without being overly clever: duets and duels between two of the same instruments; interludes for horns without rhythm within a performance — and a consistently swinging result. You didn’t hear anything this good at the mall, and this music will still be very tasty when all the ornaments are packed away.
Visit here to get a digital copy, or travel to Jen’s hot homeland for a physical copy at any of her shows. And here’s Jen on Facebook.