Tag Archives: Becky Kilgore

CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS (Part One): REBECCA KILGORE, HAL SMITH, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, ANDY SCHUMM at the CLEVELAND CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, September 11, 2015

FATS WALLER'S HAPPY FEELING

Rebecca Kilgore makes us glad to be alive whenever she sings, even if the song is melancholy.  I’ve been admiring her work for a long time, and it is a great comfort to know that her glowing presence is no more distance than her latest CD.  But while you are waiting for that CD to arrive, may I offer you a treat that I think is beyond compare?

Perhaps twenty years ago, the superb jazz drummer Hal Smith (read more about Hal here) had a delightful little band in California that he called the RHYTHMAKERS, homage to the hottest band to ever record — ask Philip Larkin.  That band made a handful of superb CDs, discs I return to regularly, and one was a collection of lesser-known Fats Waller songs, CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS.  The singer on those discs was one Becky Kilgore, floating and swinging magnificiently.

When Hal and Becky found that they were going to be among the stars of the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party — now called the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — Hal suggested that they do a set of those Waller songs, and Rebecca, who loves good songs and rare ones as well as the Songbook classics, agreed.

Hence, a wonderful little band, with Rebecca, Hal, Nicki Parrott, string bass; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Andy Schumm, clarinet.  (Yes, clarinet. Wonderfully, too.  As I was listening, I heard familiar sounds and tones — not Pee Wee or Tesch, exactly — but then “the penny dropped,” as they say in the UK.  Andy is inspired by Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, and the result is as if Mezz had studied hard and practiced for hours — a very inspiring result.)

And here’s the first gem, HOW JAZZ WAS BORN, from 1928, and one of the hit songs of KEEP SHUFFLIN’:

I could listen to this band all day.  (Frankly, I’d like to see the concert tour, the NPR and PBS series, to say nothing of the associated merchandise.)

And be assured that they performed more songs in this set.

If you are still unsure of the origins of jazz, I know that Professors KilgoreSmithParrottSchummSportiello will be happy to explain in words and music at the 2016 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party and their other gigs.

May your happiness increase!

“MOONSHADOW DANCE”: REBECCA KILGORE, ELLEN VANDERSLICE, and MIKE HORSFALL

I’m delighted to tell you about a new Rebecca Kilgore CD, delicious and new. I’ve repeated NEW in the first sentence for a reason: MOONSHADOW DANCE is not only a new plastic artifact in a new cardboard sleeve, but it contains new music — songs by Ellen Vanderslice, Mike Horsfall, and Rebecca herself.

MSD_Cover

The idea of the singer-songwriter is such a familiar one in the last half-century that I won’t make a fuss about it.  However, our Rebecca has made her wondrous reputation by singing “the Great American Songbook,” which in most cases has meant songs from the late  Twenties to the late Fifties, with some exceptions. And for most CD-buyers and audience members, that has meant a certain amount of comfort.  Rebecca is a happily curious Songhound — she searches out deserving songs whether they are rare or familiar, and they glisten when she sings them.  But at a concert, for instance, I can almost feel the audience sigh with pleasure when Rebecca finishes the verse of a Rodgers and Hart song and tenderly makes her way into the chorus.  “A beloved friend,” is our unspoken response, our happiness at hearing something we have the most tender feelings for.

It is of course possible and even delightful to devote one’s career to singing or playing the familiar.  Louis never got tired of WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, and Hot Lips Page is reputed to have said, “The material is immaterial.” But the great pleasure of this new CD, MOONSHADOW DANCE, is that almost every song is a new creation by Vanderslice, Horsfall, and Kilgore.

But before any reader panics and snorts, “New songs?  Why doesn’t anyone sing any of the great old songs anymore?” and reaches for a familiar sheaf of 78s . . . here’s some pleasing evidence that “new” doesn’t have to mean “loud,” “coarse,” or “postmodern,”when the songs are written by the masterful Ellen Vanderslice, Mike Horsfall, and our Rebecca:

Not only do you hear Rebecca’s silken voice, but the melody and lyrics are beautifully crafted — no cliches, either musical or lyrical — but with a certain fresh flair, so that a listener doesn’t think for a moment, “Wow, that turn of phrase must have been the cat’s meow or the cat’s pajamas in 1929.”  Rather, this song and the fifteen others on this disc are musically substantial but not imitations of older songs, and the lyrics sound the way an elegant, witty speaker of this century might talk.

A digression about the video: words and music by Ellen Vanderslice, music by Mike Horsfall.  Musicians are Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Todd Strait, drums; Dan Balmer, guitar; Mike Horsfall, vibraphone / arrangement.  The wonderful dancers are Rachel Lidskog-Lim and Jack Lim.  (I am a literal-minded type, so I was relieved that the pasta did not get overcooked and gummy and that Rachel and Jack — unlike me — can cook so neatly that they don’t mess up their formal clothes.)

Back to the CD.  On it, you’ll hear wry portraits of contemporary life (a blues about the civilization and its discontents) that are mildly reminiscent of Portland’s master viewer-at-a-slant, Dave Frishberg, but there are plenty of songs about songwriters’ favorite subject: love.  There’s ONE LITTLE KISS, AEOLIAN SHADE, I’M NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO LOVE, UM MINUTO A MAIS (ONE MINUTE MORE), TO HAVE, TO HOLD, TO LOVE, ONE MORE TIME TO SAY GOODBYE, and the even more emphatic THAT’S IT!  There’s also what I believe is the first recorded performance of Rebecca’s multilingual fantasy, THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH.  And I already have found myself humming BIRTHDAY SONG, GENERIC, which has a hilarious punchline.

The instrumental accompaniment from Randy Porter, Tom Wakeling, Todd Strait, Dan Balmer, Israel Annoh, Steve Christofferson, Marco DeCarvalho, David Evans, Mike Horsfall, Tim Jensen, Mike Horsfall, John Moak, and Dick Titterington is first-rate: singer Susanna Mars joins in on YOU MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY.

It’s a very rewarding CD, full of small sweet / tangy surprises.  I predict that some of the “new” songs” will become memorable friends in one or two listening.

Now — if you live in Portland, Oregon, and are reading this early on Sunday, January 31, 2016, you have a special opportunity to enjoy this music in an experience larger than your earbuds: a concert from 2-4 PM, with Rebecca, Randy Porter, Todd Strait, Tom Wakeling, Mike Horsfall and other musicians, as well as dancers Rachel and Tim from the video above.  Details here at the bottom of the page.  Also on that same page you will find links to help you purchase the CD as a disc or download.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get dressed up and cook some pasta.  And MOONSHADOW DANCE will be the entirely fitting soundtrack.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC FOR THE PARTY (December 31, 2015)

Alex-Hill

I don’t make resolutions, but if I did perhaps one of them would be to pay attention to the late Alex Hill (pianist, composer, arranger, singer, bandleader) who died of tuberculosis at 30.  What better place to begin than his early-Thirties romp — part invitation to a wingding, part sermon, part exultation with hopes to send the Depression flying out of the window — LET’S HAVE A JUBILEE?

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First, by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band, instrumentally, in what may be the first recorded version of the song:

Wardell Jones, Shelton Hemphill, Henry “Red” Allen (tp) George Washington (tb,arr) prob. Henry Hicks (tb) Gene Mikell (sop,as,bar,cl) Crawford Wethington (as,bar,cl) Joe Garland (ts,bar,cl,arr) Edgar Hayes (p) Benny James (g) or Lawrence “Larry” Lucie (g) Hayes Alvis (b) O’Neil Spencer (d) Chuck Richards (vcl) Alex Hill, Benny Carter (arr) Lucky Millinder (dir)

Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang, all satirically identified, in two takes:

Louis Prima (tp,vcl) George Brunies (tb) Sidney Arodin (cl) Claude Thornhill (p) George Van Eps (g) Benny Pottle (b) Stan King (d).  The routines are very similar, but in one version Prima refers to drummer King as “Stan Green,” the other by his correct surname.

alex-hill-hollywood-sepians-joe-haymes-orch-on-uk-vocalion-s-70_1138481

Alex himself “and his Hollywood Sepians”:

What a charming singer he was!  (I thought of the slightly cloudy voice of John W. Bubbles.)

Joe Thomas, Benny Carter (tp) Clyde Bernhardt, Claude Jones (tb) Albert Nicholas (cl) George James (as) Gene Sedric (ts) Garnet Clark (p) Alex Hill (voc, arr) Eddie Gibbs (g) Billy Taylor, Sr. (b) Harry Dial (d)

vocalion-2848-alex-hill-hollywood-sepians-let-s-have-a-jubilee-e_9617094

And the Ellington version (the first recording of the tune I ever heard) with the glorious Ivie Anderson:

Rex Stewart (cnt) Arthur Whetsol, Cootie Williams (tp) Lawrence Brown, Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol (tb) Barney Bigard (cl,ts) Johnny Hodges (as,sop) Otto Hardwick (cl,as,bassax) Harry Carney (bar,cl,b-cl) Duke Ellington (p) Fred Guy (g) Wellman Braud (b) Billy Taylor, Sr. (tu) Sonny Greer (d) Ivie Anderson (vcl)

It’s unfair to Harry Roy to play his recording after Duke’s, but it represents the way a listener might have encountered the song as a new pop hit in early 1935:

Bringing us almost in to this century, here’s the delicious 1999 version by Hal Smith and his Rhythmakers featuring Rebecca Kilgore:

Marc Caparone (cnt) Alan Adams (tb) Bobby Gordon (cl) John Otto (as,cl) Chris Dawson (p) Rebecca Kilgore (g,vcl) Clint Baker (b) Hal Smith (d)

(I just saw that a 2012 CD by the wonderful hot band KUSTBANDET has this song as its title . . . must search out that disc.)

If you’re not even mildly jubilant at this point, there isn’t much more JAZZ LIVES can offer.  I hope it works!

May your happiness increase!

“I LOOKED FOR EVERY LOVELINESS”: REBECCA KILGORE, HARRY ALLEN, HOWARD ALDEN, EHUD ASHERIE, JON BURR, HAL SMITH (Allegheny Jazz Party, September 10, 2015)

This lovely song is best known because of Billie Holiday’s performance, although it was originally sung beautifully by Bing Crosby.  I celebrate it as yet another triumph for the tragically short-lived composer Ralph Rainger, and the woman we do not think of as a lyricist, Dorothy Parker (her only other popular success was HOW AM I TO KNOW?).

I WISHED ON THE MOON sheet

It is now 2015, as you have noticed.  And although I revere Lady Day to the utmost, I know there is Life After Billie as well.  So I invite you to admire this performance of that song from the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party (September 10) featuring Rebecca Kilgore with Harry Allen, Ehud Asherie, Howard Alden, Jon Burr, and Hal Smith — a masterpiece of dreamlike subtle floating:

Our Rebecca makes the song her own — her own tempo, her own improvisations shaping both the first and second choruses.  And her instrumentalists keep us aloft.  We don’t have to wish on the moon for every loveliness when they are so generously being granted us.

May your happiness increase!

“BEAUTIFUL LOVE, YOU’RE ALL A MYSTERY”: REBECCA KILGORE / KEITH INGHAM (ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY, September 19, 2014)

BEAUTIFUL LOVE Bing

The haunting waltz BEAUTIFUL LOVE was composed in 1931, music credited to Wayne King, Victor Young, and Egbert Van Alstyne; lyrics to Haven Gillespie. That is an eminent group of artists.  I don’t know whether King insisted that his name be put on the music (thus, he would receive royalties) before he would perform the song.  On no evidence whatsoever, I think Victor Young might be most responsible for this melody.

I do know that I first became aware of BEAUTIFUL LOVE through one or another 1934 Art Tatum recording.  Here is his early Decca improvisation, characteristically with everything imaginable offered, including a vivid digression into RUSSIAN LULLABY:

There are, of course, many improvisations on it by Bill Evans, by Helen Merrill, Anita O’Day, Benny Carter, Joe Pass, Kenny Dorham, Lee Konitz, Shirley Horn, George Shearing, and a sweet, intent one by Bing Crosby.

What other song can you think of that has been recorded by both Donald Lambert and Chick Corea?

In this century, the song retains its popularity among improvisers, if YouTube videos are a measure of that.  Here is a sheet music cover from 1959 with the UK pop singer Edna Savage posing inexplicably:

BEAUTIFUL LOVE Edna Savage

But my new favorite performance of BEAUTIFUL LOVE is this, which took place at the Allegheny Jazz Party on September 19, 2014  —

That’s our Rebecca, Becky Kilgore, and Keith Ingham — in one of their duets in a Victor Young tribute set.  I so admire the varied textures and shadings Becky brings to individual words and to those words, made into tapestries of sound and feeling.  The most modest of stars, she is a great understated dramatic actress who seems never to act; she is possessed by the song and rides its great arching wings.

Love is of course the great mystery, whether it is gratified or if it remains elusive.  How the great artists touch us so deeply is perhaps mysterious.  But what we feel and perceive is not — whether we experience it in person or on a recording or a video performance.

To experience an unforgettable weekend of music by Becky and friends, one need only visit here to find out all one needs to know about the Allegheny Jazz Party, taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, September 10-13, 2015.

May your happiness increase!

“TWO SONGBIRDS OF A FEATHER”: BECKY KILGORE / NICKI PARROTT

I’ve known both of these gloriously talented musicians for more than a decade, and have delighted in their live performances at festivals for that time.  So I am delighted to report that their first full-length duo CD, TWO SONGBIRDS OF A FEATHER (Arbors ARCD 19447) is even better than I expected.

SONGBIRDSThe facts?  The CD was recorded in March 2015 (lively sound thanks to the ever-professional Jim Czak) with beautiful photographs and design by Brian Wittman.  The band is Mike Renzi, piano; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chuck Redd, drums; Nicki, bass; Becky, guitar on several tracks; Becky and Nicki, vocals and patter.  The songs: TWO LITTLE GIRLS FROM LITTLE ROCK / TWO SONGBIRDS OF A FEATHER / RAY NOBLE MEDLEY / LIFE IS SO PECULIAR / WHEN LOVE GOES WRONG / S’WONDERFUL / Theme From VALLEY OF THE DOLLS / THEY SAY IT’S SPRING / BLUE MOON – MOONGLOW / THEM THERE EYES / A WOMAN’S PREROGATIVE / EL CAJON / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.

First off.  There isn’t a moment on this CD, whatever the mood or tempo, that doesn’t swing.  And it’s a deep intuitive swing: take, for example, the a cappella chorus that begins WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.  With all due respect to the instrumental accompaniment — a fine band — Becky and Nicki are swinging in the best understated but authentic Basie manner when they utter the first syllable.  And their voices — alternatively lighter, darker, flying, trading places in mid-air — go together perfectly, whether they are alternating phrases within a song, singing in unison or harmonizing.  Each performance is full of small sweet surprises (including some witty banter) which makes the CD an old-fashioned experience, a “show” rather than simply two people standing at microphones and singing one song after another.  One can hear that the routines have been carefully planned, but nothing is stiff or formal.  They sound as if they are having a good time, fully enjoying the pleasures of music-making.  The effect is never cute or artificial, but there is a good deal of cheerful play.  And singers could learn so much from studying this disc.

Some highlights.  Nicki and Becky essay some of their proven crowd-pleasers, with roots in Louis Jordan (PECULIAR) and the Marilyn Monroe songbook (LITTLE ROCK, WRONG) — but much of the material here is new to Kilgore-Parrott fanciers.  There’s a clever arrangement of S’WONDERFUL, a racing romp on THEM THERE EYES, and several blissfully tender performances — the Ray Noble medley couldn’t be more sweet; VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is rueful and yearning; the BLUE MOON – MOONGLOW collation enables us to hear those familiar songs anew.  And the title track, SONGBIRDS, has a lively chorus by Brian Wittman — living up to his name — a verse by Becky, music by Nicki. True group work!  If there were still a network of hip radio stations, the performance of the Johnny Mandel – Dave Frishberg EL CAHON would be an instant classic.

The thirteen selections are wonderfully varied and paced, so the CD seems far too short.  And the band rocks gorgeously around and with the singers.

I am being unsubtle when I say BUY THIS ONE, but occasionally subtlety is a burden.  I received my copy yesterday and it is now playing for the fourth time. On the surface, it is an hour of joy: I think it is hours of that rare substance.

P.S.  You’ll note — rare for me — that no videos accompany this posting.  On camera, Nicki and Becky come across as the most hilariously swinging and endearing pair of vocal pals, sisters even.  But even in the most expertly-done jazz party situations, they sing into a microphone, the sound goes through an engineering board, comes out of two large speakers, crosses the room, and is picked up by my camera’s trustworthy but small microphone.  All this is to say, gently, that the videos often do not do singers’ voices justice — and the sound on this CD is so much more intimate and rich that I would do the disc a disservice by posting a video as evidence.

May your happiness increase!

HELP FAST EDDIE GET BACK TO SPEED

Eddie Erickson and Becky Kilgore, striking a pose in 2008

Eddie Erickson and Becky Kilgore, striking a pose in 2008

If you don’t know Eddie Erickson, I humbly suggest that your life has been incomplete.  “Fast Eddie,” as he’s also called, is many things: a swinging solo and rhythm guitarist; a blazing banjoist; an incomparable clown and vaudevillian; a remarkably moving ballad singer.  I first encountered him as one-third or one-fourth (who’s counting?) of B E D, named for Becky Kilgore, Eddie, and Dan Barrett, with essential swing counseling from the “silent J,” Joel Forbes.

Here is Eddie as the captivating balladeer (in 2011, with Sue Kroninger and Chris Calabrese):

Here is Eddie as the wonderful swingster (in 2014, with Becky Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, Ed Metz):

Here is Eddie the irrepressible comedian, making old jokes seem new (in 2014, with Johnny Varro, Bria Skonberg, Antti Sarpila, Nicki Parrott, Chuck Redd):

How could a man so ebullient have medical problems?  Well, if you know Eddie, you know he’s recently recovered from serious heart surgery — a replacement valve — and is slowly, slowly doing all right.  He is recovering at home.

But he has expenses to pay.  You know what those white envelopes that come from the hospital, the medical group, and other people look like?  He’s got a pile of them.  And a free-lance jazz musician, a Swing Troubadour, is not always a bourgeois sort with a regular salary.  So if you can’t gig for some time while recovering . . . you can imagine.

(This is not, I assure you, an empty appeal.  I don’t like to use JAZZ LIVES to sell products or to raise money — but this afternoon I walked to the mailbox and sent a check before writing this blogpost.)

“Here’s the deal,” as Eddie and  Bill Dendle would say.

This little appeal for funds has been vouched for by Sue Kroninger, someone I trust deeply, and I’ve just gotten off the phone with Elinor Hackett, someone who loves Eddie sincerely — another secular saint.

Elinor, a dear friend/fan/supporter of Eddie (indeed a supporter of trad jazz, youth programs, festivals and live music) has opened an account at Chase, which will be used to collect any donations to help Eddie in his efforts to get well and pay his medical bills. Eddie has given so much love to so many people throughout his life, that it seems fitting that this time it’s his turn to receive some love in return.  At the moment, the account is in Elinor’s and Eddie’s sister, Diane’s name — Eddie will be able to access the money when he is a little stronger.

Thanks for giving this your attention. Please pass it along to anyone who you feel might also be interested.  I know that many people who love Eddie don’t always have computers or spend as much time on them as we do.

Please send as ample a check as you can to Elinor Hackett at the address below. Make the check out to Elinor, and write “Gift of Love to Eddie” in the memo space of your check.  Mail it to Elinor Hackett, 9037 Mojave Dr, Sacramento, Ca 95826-4521.

All checks will be logged and deposited in this special “Love Eddie” account.
Questions?  Email elnor2jaz@gmail.comor / phone 916-363-8895

And a few lines for me: it is more blessed to give than to receive, and the joys of doing a kindness last longer than the pleasure one has in being the recipient.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but I shall: if everyone who’d ever laughed hilariously or grown teary at a performance by Eddie Erickson sent him the price of a Starbucks coffee or a two-pound bag of supermarket potato chips, he would never have to worry.

Thank you for reading this.  And thank you even more on Eddie’s behalf.

May your happiness increase!