DAN BARRETT’S EAST COAST TOUR (Part Three)
This installment in the Barrett Chronicles 2009 takes us to what was once called Roth’s Westside Steakhouse (Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street in Manhattan) on October 16, 2009.
The fun and frolic began with a series of duets between Dan and Ehud Asherie. Roth’s gets high marks for encouraging jazz, but it is a typical restaurant: dishes and silverware crash, the bar patrons were especially excited by some sports event on television, and there is a good deal of loud oblivious chatter. On the other hand, Roth’s is the only jazz event I’ve ever attended where the governor of my home state — in this case David Patterson — came in late in the evening. Whether he was in the groove or merely addressing his dinner I was too preoccupied to notice, but if he missed out on the music he missed something special.
Not incidentally, I’ve been admiring Dan’s recorded work since 1987, and have seen him live a number of times (with Becky Kilgore and Rossano Sportiello, at Jazz at Chautauqua, and at a series of concerts put on by Joe Boughton, where his colleagues included Vince Giordano, Duke Heitger, and Kevin Dorn) . . . as well as an early-Eighties Newport in New York tribute to Billie Holiday directed by Ruby Braff. But this gig and his appearance at Smalls have given me an even greater admiration of Dan’s creativity, because no one else was in the way. I was reminded often of hearing Vic Dickenson play — with Mike Burgevin and Jimmy Andrews — in 1974. The same swing, the same full understanding of what this music is all about. But on to the videos!
Here are Dan and Ehud caressing THAT OLD FEELING, a ballad everyone knows but few jazzmen actually play. Who could be insensitive to the beauty of Dan’s pure sound? And Ehud accompanies him perfectly — then launches into his own ruminations, which embody the whole history of swinging jazz piano, delicate and pointed at once:
And a Barrett original (his lines have the same bounce as his solos), WITH’EM, which will reveal its roots in a flash. At first, when I didn’t recognize the line, I thought it was something written by Don Byas or Johnny Hodges, evidence of its authentic pedigree:
Another fine neglected Forties tune (courtesy of the Ink Spots) at a jaunty tempo, without recitative, IF I DIDN’T CARE. The crowd was getting a bit more noisy, but I didn’t care:
And a slow-motion DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE, its mournful tempo getting at the loss that is at the heart of the lyrics, Savor Dan’s lovely opening cadenza, a composition on its own (while the dishes clatter):
Who else would have the musical wisdom to offer up IF YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD, a fine song to improvise on:
And (for me) the piece de resistance — a genuine Hollywood-style jam session. Lovers of jazz on film will know what I mean. The model comes from the 1947 film THE FABULOUS DORSEYS, where the scene begins with the briefest clip of Art Tatum playing in a club . . . we know this because there’s a sign outside saying so. Then, as if by magic, a whole host of jazzmen appear — their horns at the ready — as if from nowhere. No one has to warm up, adjust a reed, or use the facilities: they just spring into action. Well, it happened at Roth’s. Attillo Troiano was there with his clarinet, to the left; Jon-Erik Kellso rose from his dinner, ready for action, and Luigi Grasso, seated to the right, just happened to have his alto saxophone with him. And someone called HIGH SOCIETY — which resulted in what Dan, at the end, said was “really jazzy,” and then started to laugh. It has the wonderful swagger of the Blue Note Jazzmen, transported to the Upper West Side, with all the strains in place, everyone knowing the right melodies and countermelodies.
It was a privilege to be there, and I don’t write these words casually. I won’t forget this evening!