Tag Archives: Bern Jazz Festival

SERIOUS SWING IN SWITZERLAND: WARREN VACHÉ, BILL ALLRED, BOB WILBER, DICK WELLSTOOD, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, MILT HINTON, JAKE HANNA, and WILD BILL DAVISON: “SONS OF CHICAGO JAZZ,” Bern Jazz Festival 1986.

Warren Vaché, photograph by Stuart Nicholson

I don’t think JAZZ LIVES’ readers will need an introduction to this wonderful band. Eddie Condon would have called this band SONS OF BIXES. And they are! (In a nice way, mind you.) Warren Vaché, cornet; Bill Allred, trombone; Bob Wilber, reeds; Dick Wellstood, piano; Milt Hinton, string bass; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Jake Hanna, drums; guest Wild Bill Davison, cornet, who also talks about Al Capone with an interviewer at the end. (Bill hadn’t been able to warm up properly for his first chorus of MONDAY DATE but was in wonderful form a few minutes in.)

The music: AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL / BEALE STREET BLUES / THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE (Vaché-Allred) / MOOONLIGHT ON THE GANGES (Wilber-Bucky-Milt-Jake) / add Wild Bill, Warren out: MONDAY DATE / BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU / YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME (don’t miss Bill’s Hackett-coda!) / Warren returns: LADY BE GOOD / Encore (Wild Bill out): HINDUSTAN //

Incidentally, the music is billed as “Chicago jazz,” and I suppose that is evident in some of the repertoire choices. But if you take away all the labels — “Nicksieland,” “hot jazz,” “Mainstream,” the music stands on its own, with masterful players regarding the past with affection and skill while completely being themselves. And, with no disrespect to the elegantly hot front line, WHAT a rhythm section! Make sure that fragile items nearby are secured because you will feel turbulence of the best kind throughout the cabin.

I could watch and listen to that all day. What a blessing that it was performed, recorded, and preserved, and that Warren and Bill are still with us, making music.

May your happiness increase!

“THIS BAND DOESN’T REHEARSE. WE JUST PLAY.” WARREN VACHÉ, ALLAN VACHÉ, JOHN ALLRED, GRAY SARGENT, RALPH SUTTON, JACK LESBERG, JAKE HANNA (Bern Jazz Festival 1997)

These were the 1997 Bern Jazz Festival All-Stars!

And the exclamation point was so well-deserved, with Warren Vaché, cornet; Allan Vaché, clarinet; John Allred, trombone; Ralph Sutton, piano; Gray Sargent, guitar; Jack Lesberg, string bass; Jake Hanna, drums. Bern, Switzerland, 1997.

As Uncle Jake used to say, “Pay attention.”

“This band doesn’t rehearse; we just play,” says Warren. And so they do, spectacularly.

YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / AFTER YOU’VE GONE (Allan) / VIPER’S DRAG (Ralph) / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW / I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU (John) / WALKIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME (Gray) / NOBODY KNOWS (Warren – Ralph) / FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (Jack) / LIMEHOUSE BLUES (Jake) / BLUES:

What swing, what proficiency, what delight, individually and collectively. An amazing band, a memorable performance . . . and I don’t usually get hyperbolic, but I do here.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGING IN SWITZERLAND: CLARK TERRY, GEORGE MASSO, KENNY DAVERN, DANNY MOSS, JOHNNY LETMAN, RALPH SUTTON, HOWARD ALDEN, MILT HINTON, GUS JOHNSON (Bern 1989)

This astonishing band was assembled for the 1989 Bern Jazz Festival. Even more astonishing — across the distance of years — is that a concert was televised, the evidence remains, and you can see it here and now. We have Clark Terry, m.c., trumpet, flugelhorn, mouthpiece, vocal; George Masso, trombone; Kenny Davern, clarinet; Danny Moss, tenor saxophone; Howard Alden, guitar; Ralph Sutton, piano; Milt Hinton, string bass; Gus Johnson, drums; Johnny Letman, trumpet.

Couldn’t be better.

Howard Alden, a few years later.

Here’s the bill of fare: SWINGIN’ THE BLUES / MY BLUE HEAVEN / IT HAD TO BE YOU (Moss, Masso) / IN A MELLOTONE / THANKS A MILLION (Johnny Letman) / MOTEN SWING / TRAV’LIN ALL ALONE (Davern, Alden, Milt, Gus) / IN THE DARK (Sutton) / PULL ‘EM OFF (Milt, Clark, Alden, Gus) / GOD BLESS THE CHILD (Clark) / UNDECIDED / Encore: THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE //

Some of these festival assemblages — you know them in the first ten minutes — have a “Do we have to go through this again?” weary air, with the opening ensemble number, a string of features, and a breakneck finish. Not this one: it is a gathering of wonderfully swinging friends, smiling at each other in person and in sound. And the familiar repertoire gleams.

I could have offered a portrait of any of the Eminences on the stand, but I choose Howard Alden for a few reasons aside from his natural sustained brilliance. In 1989, he was already a young veteran who’d recorded with everyone from Dizzy to Ruth Warrick to Joe Bushkin, Benny Carter, and Mel Powell . . . but there in the Swiss spring he was the Official Youngblood, and now he is the Eminence standing squarely on his own. I also salute him because when I asked him for permission to post this video, his response was (typically) gracious and swift: he remembers “a wonderful trip.”

A triumph of the Common Language of Jazz and the buoyancy of joy.

May your happiness increase!