I could write at length about the time when jazz and popular music embraced worldwide, but rather than lament that era’s diminution, I will say only that it was a privilege to witness these four performances: masterful artists at play.
The first two songs were performed by Freddy Cole, piano and vocal; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass, and the latter two Had Freddy and Randy joined by Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Eddie Metz, drums.
Melody plus swinging improvisation plus sentiment plus joy.
Slow down. Where’s the fire? Do you have to be somewhere all of a sudden? Take a load off. Make yourself to home. There’s more coffee if you’d like it, and cookies, too.
All of the above translates to LINGER AWHILE, a song created in 1923 and still played and recorded a century later.
The performance below is a splendidly energized interlude for two friendly clarinets and a swinging rhythm team: Allan Vaché (left) and Tom Fischer (right), supported by Danny Coots, drums; Paul Keller, string bass; Johnny Varro, piano. All of this happened at the much-missed Atlanta Jazz Party, but happily everyone on stage is still working their magic. Don’t miss the sly references to DON’T BE THAT WAY, HIGH SOCIETY, DIGA DIGA DOO:
I hope you’ll linger over this performance: it will repay your attentiveness. And there’s more to share from this session.
The Lyrics of the 1920 song DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (by Harry D. Kerr, John Cooper and Earl Burtnett) are quite sad:
the first verse: When love in to my dreams was creeping / I gave my heart in to your keeping / It brought the harvest I am reaping / And I always wonder now the second verse: When summer twilight’s gently falling / I’d love to know if you’re recalling / Your tender words to me enthralling / And my heart is wond’ring still and the chorus: When you have another’s arms about you, / Do you ever think of me / When you whisper “I can’t live without you,” / Do you ever think of me / And when your eyes disguise / the same old loving lies / You tell so tenderly / Deep in your heart unfeeling / When some heart you’re stealing, DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?
But it was originally taken up by dance bands in 1920 and 1921, then by hot jazz groups in later years. I’ve posted videos of Jon-Erik Kellso, the Reynolds Brothers, and Tim Laughlin with Connie Jones having fun with this lament.
But here’s another version that was only seen by the people in the hall at the Atlanta Jazz Party on April 17, 2015 — performed by Dan Barrett, trombone; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Tom Fischer, clarinet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; San Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums.
Not too fast, just splendidly.
Believe me, I think of these musicians often — with gratitude and elation.
You’d better dig that JAZZ BAND BALL. As Johnny Mercer told us, “It’s the ball of them all.”
Here the venerable jazz standard gets up on its hind legs and romps around the stage — thanks to leader / trombonist Russ Phillips; Bria Skonberg, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Sean Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums. Never mind that the song was almost a century old, composed by two members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band: it’s completely at home in 2015. And in 2022.
This joy comes to us thanks to the much-missed Atlanta Jazz Party, where so much good music happened. I know; I was there, as you can guess from the video.
The last song of the night, when both musicians and the audience are drained, is traditionally a rouser. When everyone is overwhelmed by an evening of sensations, the leader might call for SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, or JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE to send the crowd to their rooms feeling exhilarated, feeling that they’ve got their money’s worth. In truth, some of these spectacles seem formulaic, seasoned lightly with desperation: I would imagine that the last thing the band wants to do is to play Fast and Loud through weary lips and hands, but it’s expected of them.
I always think that calling AFTER YOU’VE GONE is an inside joke — a hot way of saying, “Could you go away, already?” to an audience that surely has had its fill. (Audience members sometimes stand up and shout “MORE! MORE!” although they’ve been well and over-fed, and perhaps have talked through the last set.) For Duke Heitger to call SLEEP as a closing tune is a nice bundle of ironies: it doubles as the kind suggestion, “Go to bed, so that we can stop playing and relax,” but it’s also a high-energy, spectacular jazz performance. The song didn’t begin that way. Here’s Fred Waring’s first recorded performance of it (he took it as his band’s theme):
So it began as lulling, soporific, but since 1940 (Benny Carter’s big band) and 1944 (Sid Catlett – Ben Webster) the song SLEEP has often been a high-powered showcase . . . as it is here, featuring Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Eddie Metz, drums.
Please note all the fun these possibly-exhausted musicians are having: the glance Bucky gives Rossano when the latter begins the performance, “Oh, so THAT’s the tempo?!” and the delightful hi-jinks between Eddie, Paul, and Rossano (Eddie, especially, is the boy at the back of the classroom passing notes while Mrs. McGillicuddy is droning on about the Pyramids) — they way the horns float and soar; Duke’s idea of having an ensemble chorus in the middle of the tune (no one else does this); Bucky’s super-turbo-charged chord solo, Paul and Eddie taking their romping turns, all leading up to a very tidy two-chorus rideout.
I am delighted to be able to share these two deeply swinging performances (talk about “being in the pocket”!) by Freddy Cole, piano and vocal; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Eddie Metz, drums — performed and recorded at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.
The Groove here is quite remarkable — as is the ensemble teamwork. Please notice the immaculate empathy among these musicians, with Paul and Ed acting as one but with discrete personalities, Freddy an orchestra in himself, and the wonderful rocking created by Bucky and Randy. Two other things I would call to your attention: the way Maestro Bucky, the senior member of the ad hoc aggregation, takes it upon himself — and why not? — to direct traffic, and does so with decades of experience. Also, the smile on Randy’s face: if we could harness that glowing energy, we could abandon fossil fuel.
On the basis of empirical observations made over the last fifteen years, I would state without fear of contradiction that Rebecca Kilgore, residing in Portland, Oregon, is a recognizable member of our species, genus, phylum, etc. I’ve seen her drink cranberry juice, check her iPhone, write something down with a pen, eat Thai food, and so on. Once, she picked me up at the airport in a little white car, a great honor.
Yet something magical that I can’t explain happens when she sings in front of an ensemble. She doesn’t grow larger or louder, she has no magic wand or pointed hat, and if she has a cauldron it’s out of sight behind the stage. She entrances us. She doesn’t make us meow or bark or do silly things for the mocking amusement of others, but we fall under her spell — musical and emotional.
If you think I exaggerate, I present nearly seven minutes of magic (on the second or third viewing, look at how happy the band is!) created by Rebecca on a 1945 pop hit by Billy Reid — we know it, probably, from the recordings by Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. This performance, created on the spot at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, finds Rebecca among friends and magicians Ed Metz, drums; Paul Keller, string bass; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Duke Heitger, trumpet. Entrancing.
Don’t go back to preparing dinner or that Zoom call too quickly — an abrupt descent from the sublime to the mundane could have damaging side-effects. If you’re like me, one visit to THE GYPSY as imagined by Becky and friends won’t be enough.
That was seven years ago. Rebecca, pianist Randy Porter, and string bassist Tom Wakeling (“the Rebecca Kilgore Trio”) have recorded a new CD — a mixture of wonderful songs, many new to me, all equally entrancing. It’s not released yet, but you will be able to find out more about it and Rebecca’s other recordings here.
Sometimes what’s in the archives is there for a reason: imperfections; sometimes what’s been hidden is sublime. Case in point: this performance of Ellington’s IN A MELLOTONE (a/k/a ROSE ROOM) by a small group at the Atlanta Jazz Party on April 25, 2014. The personnel: Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Freddy Cole, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums. Bucky and Freddy have left us just this year, but when I checked with the younger members of this quintet, their delight in seeing this video was strong, as was their eagerness to share it.
Part of the pleasure of this performance is its infallible swing; another is watching the Old Master, Bucky, direct traffic; a third part is the joy on the faces of Randy, Paul, and Ed.
The archives hold more surprises from Atlanta in April 2014.
The New Jersey Jazz Society is a fount of good things — concerts, publications, supporting the music and the musicians. And no one has a bad word to say about Bucky Pizzarelli . . . so take a few very brief minutes and watch this:
For those who don’t want to watch even brief videos (there’s music in this one), a flurry of reiterated details:
Don Braden, Director, Tenor Sax/Flute WBGO’s Rhonda Hamilton, Mistress of Ceremonies Special guest Dorthaan Kirk, “Newark’s First Lady of Jazz”
Nathan Eklund Trumpet Jason Jackson Trombone Ed Laub, Dave Stryker Guitar Tomoko Ohno Piano Martin Pizzarelli Bass Bernard Purdie Drums Danny Bacher, Antoinette Montague, Alexis Morrast, Marlene VerPlanck Vocals Leonieke Scheuble Piano Tim Givens Bass Nick Scheuble Drums William Paterson University Students “Little Big Band”
Sunday, October 22, 2017 3:00– 6:00pm Dorothy Young Center for the Arts on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940
Big Band to Bebop and Beyond A “Jersey Best” celebration of the rich jazz history of New Jersey; honoring the 75-year career of the Garden State’s own legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. NJJS Members advance sale $30 each (at the door: $35) Non-members advance sale $35 each (at the door: $40) Students balcony seating $15 each (I.D. required) Proceeds from the event benefit NJJS scholarships, and its educational program Generations of Jazz. Please consider making a separate, tax-deductible contribution over and above the ticket price. 3 ways to order tickets: • online: njjs.org • by phone: 1-800-838-3006; select option 1. • by mail: send a check payable to NJJS, including a $3 per order handling fee, together with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: NJJS, c/o Kate Casano, 158 Cotton Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127. Your order must be mailed no later than October 12. NJJS is a qualified I.R.C. 501(c)(3) dedicated to the performance, promotion and preservation of jazz. Ticket price is not tax deductible. NJJS is a qualified agency of the New Jersey Cultural Trust
It is possible but inconceivable that some people don’t know Bucky’s mastery (where might they have been hiding for the past decades?) so I offer two examples.
TRES PALABRAS, from the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party:
and, on the other side of things, at the 2014 AJP. SING SING SING, with Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, and Ed Metz:
Beauty is so rare, so precious. And it isn’t arrived at easily. But it is one of the ways in which we can save ourselves, especially if we understand that in its deep center, it is love in action: the love of the music that leads an artist to spend a lifetime in creating it. And that love is sent to us. We all need it, as a salve for the wounds the world’s rough edges would inflict on us.
Here are two performances of the same touching song, TRES PALABRAS, performed at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party (a duet between Becky and Bucky) and three years earlier (Bucky’s solo).
Beauty never goes to waste.
Maybe these will help. And if you hiss, “There goes Michael again, one of those people who talk so much about love and beauty,” I accept it as a compliment.
I try to avoid soda, the beverage of my childhood, but I once bought a bottle of SQUEEZE because its affectionate logo charmed me. The bottle vanished in one of several moves, but the melody lingers on.
Fats Waller’s first published song — although it was liberally based on a bawdy tune called THE BOY IN THE BOAT, whose central image was not nautical. But here are a few versions . . . . the first one from Jazz at Chautauqua in 2011 with Marty Grosz, Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson, Frank Tate:
with a pause for liquid enlightenment here:
and a solo version by Ray Skjelbred, recorded at Cline Cellars in California, June 2013:
with one more icon:
and from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, with Dan Block, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Ed Polcer, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, Ed Metz:
Reading this post and listening to the music, I don’t know if you’ll suddenly crave an orange soda, look around for the right person to squeeze and be squeezed by . . . in such things, you’re on your own. But perhaps at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — starting September 15 — someone will give this wonderful song another squeeze. You never know.
“We hoped we could create something that would be indefinitely sustainable.”
The Atlanta Jazz Party was founded in 1990 by Phil and Lee Carroll and family.
For 27 years they produced some of the most memorable events of our lives. They engaged some of the world’s finest jazz musicians to play in Atlanta. Phil scheduled different combinations of musicians, invited jazz lovers from across the country, and his parties took hold. Philip Carroll and Pualani kept it swinging for 8 more years.
WE, say thank you to all of our Guarantors, Patrons, Sponsors, Volunteers, and Attendees of AJP. For those feeling inspired, Atlanta Jazz Party is asking fans to post their favorite memory on Facebook.
“With great regret, Atlanta Jazz Party 2017 has been cancelled. Details regarding refunds will be available shortly.” The company is focusing on issuing/mailing refunds to Atlanta Jazz Party ticket holders. “Thank you for your patience and understanding.”
It’s a very hard decision to make; it’s been 27 years of great memories.
If you are a ticket holder for the Atlanta Jazz Party 2017 event and would like to plan/ exchange your tickets to attend the Atlanta Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance from May 19, 20, 2017, please call the AJP hotline 770-645-6844.
“We hoped we could create something that would be indefinitely sustainable,” said Philip Carroll. If interested in hosting & sponsoring the AJP and the world-class musicians please email email@example.com
Finally, it’s time to share the new venture Atlanta Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance, a three day weekend event benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In 2015 we scheduled a “Soft Event” on May 17th at the Chukkar Farm Polo Club, Alpharetta, Georgia. This year the festival included a series of exciting activities for the classic car enthusiast, including a police escorted tour, a welcome reception and dinner, a gala with live music on Saturday evening presented by the Atlanta Jazz Preservation Society and two days of classic automobiles on display. The Atlanta Athletic Club has extended a multiyear agreement in partnership with Johns Creek. Atlanta Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance will have many events over a three day weekend, with the main event held at Heisman Field, the serene green space across from the Atlanta Athletic Club on Saturday, May 20, 2017. It is the beginning of what will become a regular event on the national circuit! We invite local crafters/vendors and worldwide auto-related merchants. Atlanta Jazz Preservation presents live jazz which will be staged to accompany and complement this all-too rare viewing of these fine classic cars.
I learned this news about two weeks ago, but the thought of spreading the sad news just made me terribly gloomy . . . so I offer it now, belatedly. I made it to the AJP four times only — 2007, 2012, 2014, and 2015 — but I saw the hard work that the whole family did, and I exulted in the great music. Given this news, though, it seems right to post something slow, low, and tender, in honor of a great party and a grand musical tradition. “Tres palabras” here, equals “Goodbye! Thanks! Love!”
Good music, like any good art, doesn’t grow old. Here’s a venerable song — apparently composed in 1916, published in 1917, being performed ninety-eight years later at the Atlanta Jazz Party on April 18, 2015. And meaning no disrespect to Mister Handy, it is more than possible that the song was accessible in parts long before 1916.
Good music is also flexible. The venerable composition, so beloved of “Dixieland” players, gets a sweet Basie makeover here, at the hands of Russ Phillips, trombone; Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Sean Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums.
This is a rewarding interlude: I feel improved by its expert generous joys.
One of the finest piano trios ever played amazing music at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums.
This lengthy performance — three moods, three interludes, three tributes — honors Erroll Garner, George Shearing, and Count Basie, with MISTY, SHE, and SHOE SHINE BOY — creating a world of melodic improvisation, moving from sweet slow rumination to Kansas City romp, Harlem stride — with beautiful string bass and drum work along the way.
Magnificent music: the sort of creative effusion that happens when one of these musicians is on the stand, and even more when the three of them get together.
How do we define virtuosity? Is it blinding technical skill, amazing displays of bravado, playing higher, faster, in ways that dizzy and delight? Sometimes, perhaps. I think Louis’ 250 high C’s in performances in the early Thirties must have delighted audiences. But the true virtuosity (to me) is subtler, quieter, more subversive: Louis’ melody statement and solo on THAT’S FOR ME comes to mind. Dear and deep melodic improvisations that stick in the mind as much as the original song; tone and touch that come to us with the sweet clarity and intensity of beloved voices; unerring yet relaxed swing.
The three performances offered here are perfectly virtuosic, although the general approach is spiritual rather than calisthenic, people playing for the happiness of the band rather than for the loudest applause.
Five people joined forces on the spot — not an organized band — at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party: Russ Phillips, Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.
I’ve already posted this quintet’s made-fresh-while-you-wait masterpiece, improvisations on Artie Shaw’s blues line for his Gramercy Five, SUMMIT RIDGE DRIVE, but it bears repeated watching and listening:
Lovely in a blue haze, but with a swing: MOOD INDIGO:
And EAST OF THE SUN, which Professor Barrett explicates for us as preface to the glorious cosmological explorations:
These cozy virtuosi (thanks to Cole Porter) indeed.
Some wish to honor the past by attempting to reproduce it exactly. An honorable effort, but I much prefer those bold tightrope walkers who know that the only way to honor the glories of, say, 1929, is to make them alive in this century by adding personal innovative sparks to the outlines of the revered masterpieces. (I know that this is a controversial position, but I also have enough evidence that the great masters didn’t approve of imitation; they preferred homage through individuality. Ask Lester; ask Bix. And I’ve done scholarly work for decades, but I also reverberate to Emerson’s tart words that Shakespeare was not made by the study of Shakespeare.)
So I present to you a too-short set by a vibrant jazz band onstage at the Atlanta Jazz Party (April 18, 2015) led by the eloquent Duke Heitger, trumpet, with Tom Fischer, clarinet / tenor; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums.
What they had to tell us was plenty — and it had no connections to the Wax Museum of Hot, although one could see and hear easily that the Ancestors were being honored: Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, and their worthy colleagues. No academia, no didacticism, no laser pointer or Power Point. Just wonderful hot music.
I NEVER KNEW:
IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN:
I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA:
BLACK BOTTOM STOMP (which begins with the time-honored invocation, “Meet you at the end”):
Five noblemen of jazz, honoring the past by being fully alive in Now.
Tom Lord, in his well-known online jazz discography, lists 749 versions of THAT’S A PLENTY, beginning with Prince’s Band / Orchestra in 1914, which might not be the same as this song (which most of us associate with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings). The title seems to have been a slangy catchphrase at the start of the last century, so there are several songs with that title but different music and lyrics.
Here’s another version, quite elevating, from April 17, 2015, with Dan, trombone, leadership, and comedy; Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Tom Fischer, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Sean Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums.
WHEE! (When you begin to watch the video, all will be revealed):
It’s a wonderful song, a riotous performance, and a fine advertisement for the 2016Atlanta Jazz Party.
Allan Vaché knows what swing is all about, and when you get him on a bandstand with a good rhythm section, floating jazz improvisations happen. And that was the case at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — when he and Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums, took their happy way through three Charlie Christian / Lionel Hampton riff tunes that have been associated with Benny Goodman for seventy-five years.
I’m amused that one title seems to refer to air travel (more of a novelty in 1939 than now), one to Benny’s clarinet, one to shooting craps.
SEVEN COME ELEVEN:
Yes, we certainly could lament that this is no longer our popular music, and occasionally I myself dip into that pit of despair, but the music that these five people made and still make is a true cure for any sadness.
And here is the information you’ll need about the 2016 Atlanta Jazz Party, April 22-24.
Danny Coots, who lives the words on the sign above his head.
Four delights and four comic interludes from the very lovable and talented Danny Coots, with Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Ben Polcer, trumpet; Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, trombone; Allan Vaché, Tom Fischer, reeds; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Paul Keller, string bass: recorded at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party —
BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN:
The 27th Atlanta Jazz Party will take place in you-know-what-city from April 22 to 24, 2016. Details to comehere.
Even though now and again I feel the signs of a ROYAL GARDEN BLUES overdose approaching, there’s new life in “old music” that nobody can deny.
The JAZZ ME BLUES is surely an old chestnut, a “Dixieland classic,” a “good old good one” that some listeners and musicians assume comes from the era of faux-jazz: straw hats and striped jackets, jazz half-recreated rather than created. But no material is in itself alive or dead; it depends on the energy, wit, ingenuity, and feeling that musicians can bring to it.
Thus, this artifact —
became something quite vivid and lively in an April 25, 2014 performance at the Atlanta Jazz Party by Dan Barrett, trombone; Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Block, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ed Metz, drums (and a cameo appearance by Chair):
Notice the nice relaxed tempo, the little ingenuities, the backing figures, the eloquent but understated playing. Nothing’s dead unless we choose to make it so is the moral of this particular story. Also that the Atlanta Jazz Party is alive and well in 2016! More details as the date approaches.
I know that the physical remains of Louis Armstrong changed their form in 1971, but I believe that his living presence remains all around us: not only in musicians, but in anyone amplified by and aware of his loving joyous spirit.
But the musicians give us the most evident vibrating proof.
Marc Caparone, cornet, with High Sierra at the Suncoast Jazz Classic, recorded in 2014 by Cine Devine:
Bent Persson, trumpet; Petter Carlson, piano, last month, recorded by Claes Jansson:
Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Sean Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums, April 18, 2015, Atlanta Jazz Party, recorded by swingyoucats(that’s me!):
Three kinds of lyrical beauty — each individual, each glowing. You don’t have to play a trumpet to embody Louis. Send out love, act joyously and kindly; enjoy your life — every day — and Louis lives through you.
P.S. I am posting this blog on July 4 — the date Louis believed was his birthday. Reasonable evidence still points to this date, although 1901 rather than 1900. If nothing else, his mother called him her “firecracker baby,” and although Mayann’s formal education must have been limited, I believe that she wouldn’t confuse July and August when remembering her delivery.
I was tempted to call this post TWO JUSTS AND A JIVE, but my legal staff talked me out of it.
It wasn’t formally billed as a Swingtet, but after sixteen bars you’ll know it couldn’t be called anything else. This romping set took place at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party, under the leadership of clarinetist Allan Vaché. The other notables on the stand are Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Wayne Wilkinson, guitar; Russ Phillips, trombone; Chuck Redd, vibes.
Cole Porter’s JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS:
Harry “Sweets” Edison’s JIVE AT FIVE:
Jesse Greer’s JUST YOU, JUST ME (which goes all the way back to 1929):
The slightly unusual instrumentation is just delicious — what ensemble work and what solos! In the groove for sure.
And the good news is that there is grooving planned at the 27th Atlanta Jazz PartyApril 15, 16, 17, of 2016. “Good deal,” as one of my heroes was wont to say.