Tag Archives: Bernd Lhotzky

REBECCA KILGORE and ECHOES OF SWING: “WINTER DAYS at SCHLOSS ELMAU”

Before writing this post, I was thinking about Rebecca (or Becky or Roo — she has many names, as appropriate to a multi-faceted personality) someone I have been listening to with awe and pleasure since 1994, perhaps beginning with I SAW STARS (Arbors).  As for Echoes of Swing, I got to hear them in person in Germany (in 2007, thanks to Manfred Selchow) and could tell them how I admired them.  It’s one of my dreams to have musicians and groups of musicians I revere play together, and the new CD is just such a dream. . . . one that you and I can hear and re-hear.

The disc also affords us a chance to adjust our perspectives, to shake off some preconceptions.  Some listeners have perched Rebecca on a sunny windowsill in the country of Light, Bright, and Sparkling. Yes, she may prefer PICK YOURSELF UP to GLOOMY SUNDAY, but for me a little darkness will suffice.  Hear her on this disc as she sails through I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM and her reputation as an antidote to darkness is intact.  But only shallow listeners will mistake optimism for shallowness: she has depths of feeling.

Echoes of Swing plus Two: Chris Hopkins, Bernd Lhotzky, Rolf Marx, Oliver Mewes, Henning Gailing, Colin T. Dawson. Photo by Katrin Horn.

Echoes of Swing has also been slightly mis-characterized, praised for their large orchestral sound (the core unit is four players, count them, four — even though on this CD they add a string bass and guitar as well as Rebecca) — as if they were somehow marvelous simply for this magic trick, and critics have heard them as successors to the John Kirby Sextet, which is both plausible and confining.  But on this CD, the players — whom I should name now: Bernd Lhotzky, piano and musical director; Colin T. Dawson, trumpet and flugelhorn; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Oliver Mewes, drums, with Henning Gailing, string bass, and (on four tracks) Rolf Marx, guitar — create such rich varied sounds inside and outside of the arrangements by Bernd and Chris that I felt as if I’d wandered into a universe scored by, let us say, Gil Evans, spacious and resonant.

Other artists have created records and CDs devoted to Winter.  And many of those jolly efforts are avalanches of fake snow from the arts-and-crafts store.  Christmas music looms, no matter how many chairs might be wedged against the studio door, or there’s LET IT SNOW, the now-troublesome BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE, or WINTER WEATHER.  Sweet, certainly, but not always true to the reality of the season, for Winter is a time for introspection as the world becomes colder and darker.  This disc, I assure you, is not a descent into Seasonal Affective Disorder, and there are a few familiar cheery songs on it, but it is not the usual forgettable fluff.

Here’s a wonderful example, the text being the 1931 WINTER WONDERLAND, where the focused purity of Rebecca’s voice balances against a complex, shifting orchestral background:

Bernd’s quirkily cheerful setting of the most famous Robert Frost poem:

Rebecca’s own witty and sweet song:

You’ll have to explore the other surprises for yourself — songs I’d never heard by Frishberg, Berlin, and Jobim, and a few poems set to music by Bernd — performances that are remarkable on the first hearing and grow more so.

The disc is dense — which is not to say difficult or off-putting — but it has levels and levels of musical and emotional pleasure.  Some discs make wonderful background music — the soundtrack for rearranging one’s spice rack — but this one has the delicious resonance of one short story after another.  It’s available in all the old familiar places.  Details here. WINTER DAYS is ambitious, heartfelt, completely rewarding.  You won’t regret it, no matter what the temperature.

May your happiness increase!

REBECCA KILGORE’S WISTFUL HEART (Mezzrow, January 18, 2017)

oz-large

Great artists make the familiar magically alive. Many of us have seen the film THE WIZARD OF OZ, perhaps as children, so the score is well-known. But at the beginning of 2017, January 18, to be precise, Rebecca Kilgore (accompanied by the imaginative Ehud Asherie) imbued the Harold Arlen – Yip Harburg song IF I ONLY HAD A HEART with yearning depths of feeling I’d never experienced before.

Rebecca said that she was inspired by the performance of the late Susannah McCorkle, but this is no copy of Susannah: it is a wistful journey all its own.  And it shows, in case anyone needed reminding, that Ms. Kilgore’s heart is large and generous.  I think she is singing better than ever; judge for yourselves.

(A word about that intrusive microphone stand: I knew it was there but didn’t feel right whispering between songs, “Could you move that stand out of the way?”  My error.  Close your eyes and listen.)

The Kilgore magic — heartfelt in many moods — is also evident on her most recent CD for Arbors Records, a duet with the splendid pianist Bernd Lhotzky, THIS AND THAT.  Here ‘s the link to purchase a copy or several.  I’ve been listening to Rebecca for years, and I think that this CD captures her voice and spirit perhaps better than any other release.  And that is saying a great deal.

this-and-that

I was honored to write a few words for this release.

You know those moments in conversation when communication truly works, so that simple words carry deeper meaning – when speaker and hearer get one another? This communion can happen when musicians who live their art deeply create a heartfelt kinship. This CD captures fifteen such lovely interludes created by a most empathic pair.

While we trot along in the nature preserve of song, Rebecca and Bernd point out rare flowers and wild asparagus we would otherwise have missed. Consider the song most familiar to you on this disc. Marvel at how fresh they make it. The opening phrases of SWEET AND LOVELY are a splendid example. Study Bernd’s solo interlude before the chorus of THE BEST THING FOR YOU, and Rebecca’s transformations of the repeated words in DO DO DO into something lively and elastic. Thanks to technology, you are free to play I’M SHOOTING HIGH twelve times in a row. It’s restorative, better than the reproachful Fitbit around your wrist. I remain entranced by the way these two turn the tick-tock-tick of the verse into the free and soaring chorus.

Listening and re-listening, I ask myself, “How do they know how to do that most exquisite wiggle right there?” One answer is that Bernd and Rebecca have spent their lives hard at work but also joyously at play in the music they love. So each song becomes a fully realized lyrical playlet, a three-minute world of feeling and swing. Some of the songs bubble with optimism and hope, an antidote to the day’s news. Others, somber and mournful, remind us that art transforms sorrow into something more. We feel the beauty of the lament, the sound of yearning.

I haven’t tried to explicate this music, since words can’t ever explain the sensations of the first bite of ripe fruit. But I am delighted and awed by what Rebecca and Bernd offer here. Who could want a sweeter surprise? Better yet, fifteen sweet surprises.

Rebecca knows the way into our hearts.  We welcome her in.

May your happiness increase!

“DANCING” WITH THE STARS — a/k/a ECHOES OF SWING: COLIN T. DAWSON, CHRIS HOPKINS, BERND LHOTZKY, OLIVER MEWES

 

ECHOES OF SWING

The wonderful quartet ECHOES OF SWING is often compared to the John Kirby Sextet, and with some justification.  They both create intricate lines; they turn corners adeptly at top speed; they like surprises; they often play with classical themes.  But I need to write a heresy here.  Stand back.

I think ECHOES OF SWING has well and truly outstripped its ancestor: they are satisfying in ways the Kirby group couldn’t have imagined.  There!  I’ve said it.

This quartet can be energized up to 11, but they are also capable of great yearning, quiet serenities.  And they like the groove (not even the slowest track drags) but don’t get stuck in it — each track has small jubilant surprises in it, and the CD never feels like an hour of the same thing, a salad that’s really a huge bowl of Swiss chard.

The four heroes at work are Colin T. Dawson, trumpet / vocal; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Oliver Mewes, drums.  Chris, Colin, and Bernd have also contributed originals and arrangements.

And they have a new CD — called DANCING, appropriately.

Rarely do I quote from other people’s liner notes . . . but these tell the tale —

‘…a waltz through the history of jazz, an anthology which takes a wry look at the theme of dance in jazz, occasionally heading off at a tangent, and making some very surprising connections. It begins at the very beginning with Johann Sebastian Bach. A Gavotte from the English suite No. 6, a baroque dance, is transformed into a melodic platform for an effervescent drum feature. A journey through James P. Johnson’s ‘Charleston’ (‘straightened out’ into a modern jazz waltz), Scott Joplin’s ‘Ragtime Dance’, Cole Porter’s ‘Dream Dancing’, or Sidney Bechet’s ‘Premier Bal’ to Pixinguinha’s Brasilian Choro ‘Diplomata’, Bernd Lhotzky’s Cuban Bolero ‘Salir a la Luz’ or the exotic Ellington-like timbre of ‘Ballet Of The Dunes’ from Chris Hopkins. This is dance in jazz, but not as we know it. For a start, a third of the tracks are original compositions, and all of the remaining tunes have been not so much arranged, but more like given a complete and thorough overhaul. The older selections now possess a new ‘hipness’ and have been brought stylistically right up to the present day. This album presents the winning combination of flawless musicianship, a comprehensive knowledge of music history, good taste and judgement, and a sly sense of humour. Each of the tracks of “Dancing” communicates simultaneously and directly with the brain, the emotions and down to your feet. There is quite simply a very wide range of delights for the listener to enjoy.’

A few words more.  When I listen to EOS, I am always amazed by two things at once: the band’s nifty and expansive ensemble work, polished but not stiff.  It’s clear they rehearse, but rehearsal has not stifled their essential joyful spirits. And then there are the soloists.  If you don’t follow the band, the names of the four musicians may be slightly new to you, but they are sterling: Oliver is one of the finest drummers playing today — not an antiquarian, but a swinger who is so aware of the rollicking obligation to keep the other players afloat and make beautiful sounds.  Bernd is a lyrical hot expert orchestral player, but even when he plays one note, it has a splendid epigrammatic shape.  Colin is not only a fine hot trumpeter, lyrical or edgy as needed, but also a very warm persuasive singer, who moves us in his first eight bars.  And when Chris plays, I sense Benny Carter, Pete Brown, and Rudy Williams grinning: his sweet-tart tone, his blazing attack, his innate rhythmic energies are all memorable.

As a postscript, I have to apologize to the four gentlemen of EOS for taking so long to bring this disc to my readers’ attention.  I loved it instantly; I have played it two dozen times . . . but I was intimidated by its glowing vibrant variety. “What can I say about this except BUY IT NOW?”  But now’s the time.  It’s glorious. Here is the EOS CD page, and the Echoes Of Swing Facebook page. You can find the disc through iTunes and in all the old familiar places.

A working jazz band, these days, is a true marvel.  Echoes of Swing is a marvel well beyond that.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN IT’S APRIL IN WESTOVERLEDINGEN, GOOD SOUNDS HAPPEN (April 8-10, 2016)

Westoverledingen

Westoverledingen, Germany, a city with an imposing name, is not known worldwide as the cradle of jazz, but memorable music has been created there for the past thirty years and more by Manfred Selchow.  Manfred doesn’t play an instrument, but I feel secure in writing that he has done more for jazz than many people who do play.

I first encountered Manfred, or Mannie, as people call him, as a jazz scholar, because of his splendid documentation of clarinetist Edmond Hall’s life, performances, and recordings in a substantial book, PROFOUNDLY BLUE. Then he did the same thing for another hero of mine, trombonist Vic Dickenson, in a book he called, properly DING! DING!.

But Manfred likes the real thing, created on the spot, as much as he adores recordings — so he has invented and produced concert tours and festivals of some of the greatest musicians of this era.  (Many of his concerts have been recorded and the results issued on the Nagel-Heyer label.)

I first met Manfred and his wife Renate in 2007, when I also had the distinctive pleasure of encountering Menno Daams, Frank Roberscheuten, Colin T. Dawson, Oliver Mewes, Chris Hopkins, Shaunette Hildabrand, Bernd Lhotzky, and others.  At the time I didn’t have a blog or a video camera, so perhaps I only documented those evenings for the much-missed The Mississippi Rag.  

Jazz im Rathaus

Here’s a wonderful example of what takes place under Mannie’s amiable direction — a 1992 romp by Marty Grosz, Peter Ecklund, Dick Meldonian, Keith Ingham, Bob Haggart, Chuck Riggs (video by Helge Lorenz):

and more recently, a 2013 session with Menno Daams, Nicki Parrott, Bert Boeren, Antti Sarpila, Engelbert Wrobel, Joep Peeters, Chris Hopkins, Helge Lorenz, Jan Lorenz:

And since I gather that “Jazz im Rathaus” means roughly “Jazz at the Town Hall,” the shades of Louis and Eddie Condon are properly approving.

Now, for April 2016!  Consider the listings below:

Friday, April 8, 2016 – 8:00 – 10: 30 p.m.

Swingin’ Ladies + 2
Jazzfestival
(with Engelbert Wrobel, reeds; Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass / vocal)
Rathaus Ihrhove
Bahnhofstraße
26810-Westoverledingen
Germany

Saturday, April 9, 2016 – 8:00 – midnight.

Jazzfestival “Jam Session Night”
(with Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Bert Boeren, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Niels Unbehagen, piano; Nico Gastreich, bass; Moritz Gastreich, Bernard Flegar, drums)

Set One: “We Called It Music”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich (leader), Moritz Gastreich.

Set Two: “Around Broadway”: Engelbert Wrobel (leader), Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Nicki Parrott, Bernard Flegar.

Set Three: “The Stardust Road”: Menno Daams (leader), Matthias Seuffert, Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Moritz Gastreich.

Set Four: “What A Wonderful World”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich, Bernard Flegar.

At the finale all the musicians join in.

same location as Friday

Sunday, April 10, 2016 – 11:00 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Jazzfestival “Jazz Frühschoppen”
(with Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich, Moritz Gastreich, Bernard Flegar)

Set One: “Basie Jam”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren (leader), Engelbert Wrobel, Niels Unbehagen, Stephanie Trick, Helge Lorenz, guitar; Nico Gastreich, Moritz Gastreich.

Set Two: “To Billie, Teddy, and Pres”: Menno Daams, Matthias Seuffert, Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Nicki Parrott (leader), Bernard Flegar.

Set Three: “Jazz at the Philharmonic Remembered”: Matthias Seuffert (leader) plus all of the other musicians in various combinations.

same location as Friday and Saturday

And here is another version of that information.  (And now I know what “Vorschau” means, so don’t let anyone tell you that blogging isn’t educational.)

Vorschau

I’m going.  How could I resist?  So I hope to meet some of the faithful there — even people who know of this blog — for good music and good times.

My dear friend Sir Robert Cox tells me that there are many good hotels in Papenburg and Leer only minutes away at €90 – €100/night ($100-110) with breakfast.

For more information, use the phone number on the bottom of the program:

(0049) 04955 933225. (Mainly German speaking, possibly some English)
email: helmer.alberring@westoverledingen.de

or Manfred Selchow (0049) 04955 8216. (English and German)

or Bob Cox (0044) 01634 232934. (English)
email: coxes@tesco.net

May your happiness increase!

ELEGANTLY IMAGINATIVE: ECHOES OF SWING, “BLUE PEPPER”

I begin somberly . . . but there are more cheerful rewards to follow.

As the jazz audience changes, I sense that many people who “love jazz” love it most when it is neatly packed in a stylistically restrictive box of their choosing. I hear statements of position, usually in annoyed tones, about banjos, ride cymbals, Charlie Parker, purity, authenticity, and “what jazz is.”

I find this phenomenon oppressive, yet I try to understand it as an expression of taste.  One stimulus makes us vibrate; another makes us look for the exit.  Many people fall in love with an art form at a particular stage of it and their development and remain faithful to it, resisting change as an enemy.

And the most tenaciously restrictive “jazz fans” I know seem frightened of music that seems to transgress boundaries they have created .  They shrink back, appalled, as if you’d served them a pizza with olives, wood screws, mushrooms, and pencils.  They say that one group is “too swingy” or “too modern” or they say, “I can’t listen to that old stuff,” as if it were a statement of religious belief.  “Our people don’t [insert profanation here] ever.”

But some of this categorization, unfortunately, is dictated by the marketplace: if a group can tell a fairly uninformed concert promoter, “We sound like X [insert name of known and welcomed musical expression],” they might get a booking. “We incorporate everyone from Scott Joplin to Ornette Coleman and beyond,” might scare off people who like little boxes.

Certain musical expressions are sacred to me: Louis.  The Basie rhythm section. And their living evocations.  But I deeply admire musicians and groups, living in the present, that display the imaginative spirit.  These artists understand that creative improvised music playfully tends to peek around corners to see what possibilities exist in the merging of NOW and THEN and WHAT MIGHT BE.

One of the most satisfying of these playful groups is ECHOES OF SWING. Their clever title says that they are animated by wit, and this cheerful playfulness comes out in their music — not in “comedy” but in an amused ingenuity, a lightness of heart.  They have been in action since 1997, and when I saw them in person (the only time, alas) in 2007, they were wonderfully enlivening.

This action photograph by Sascha Kletzsch suggests the same thing:

EchoesOfSwingInAction1 (Foto Sascha Kletzsch, v.l. Lhotzky, Hopkins, Dawson, Mewes)

They are Colin T. Dawson, trumpet / vocal;  Chris Hopkins, alto sax; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Oliver Mewes, drums.  And they are that rarity in modern times, a working group — which means that they know their routines, and their ensemble work is beautiful, offering the best springboards into exhilarating improvisatory flights. They are also “a working group,” which means that they have gigs.  Yes, gigs!  Check out their schedule here.

Here  is a 2013 post featuring their hot rendition of DIGA DIGA DOO, and an earlier one about their previous CD, MESSAGE FROM MARS, with other videos — as well as my favorite childhood joke about a Martian in New York City here.  And while we’re in the video archives, here is a delicious eleven-minute offering from in November 2014:

and here they are on German television with a late-period Ellington blues, BLUE PEPPER:

All this is lengthy prelude to their new CD, aptly titled BLUE PEPPER:

EchoesOfSwing  - BluePepperCover

The fifteen songs on the disc are thematically connected by BLUE, but they are happily varied, with associations from Ellington to Brubeck and Nat Cole, composers including Gordon Jenkins, Rodgers, Bechet, Waller, Strayhorn — and a traditional Mexican song and several originals by members of the band: BLUE PEPPER / AZZURRO / BLUE PRELUDE / LA PALOMA AZUL / BLUE & NAUGHTY / BLUE MOON / BLACK STICK BLUES / BLUE RIVER / OUT OF THE BLUE / AOI SAMMYAKU [BLUE MOUNTAIN RANGE] / THE SMURF / BLUE GARDENIA / THE BLUE MEDICINE [RADOVAN’S REMEDY] / WILD CAT BLUES / AZURE.

What one hears immediately from this group is energy — not loud or fast unless the song needs either — a joyous leaping into the music.  Although this band is clearly well-rehearsed, there is no feeling of going through the motions. Everything is lively, precise, but it’s clear that as soloists and as an ensemble, they are happily ready to take risks. “Risks” doesn’t mean anarchy in swingtime, but it means a willingness to extend the boundaries: this group is dedicated to something more expansive than recreating already established music.

When I first heard the group (and was instantly smitten) they sounded, often, like a supercharged John Kirby group with Dizzy and Bird sitting in while at intervals the Lion shoved Al Haig off the piano stool.  I heard and liked their swinging intricacies, but now they seem even more adventurous.  And where some of the most endearing CDs can’t be listened to in one sitting because they offer seventy-five minutes of the same thing, this CD is alive, never boring.

A word about the four musicians.  Oliver Mewes loves the light-footed swing of Tough and Catlett, and he is a sly man with a rimshot in just the right place, but he isn’t tied hand and foot by the past.  Bernd Lhotzky is a divine solo pianist (he never rushes or drags) with a beautiful lucent orchestral conception, but he is also someone who is invaluable in an ensemble, providing with Oliver an oceanic swing that fifteen pieces could rest on.  I never listen to this group and say, “Oh, they would be so much better with a rhythm guitar or a string bassist.”

And the front line is just as eloquent.  Colin T. Dawson is a hot trumpet player with a searing edge to his phrases, but he knows where each note should land for the collective elegance of the group — and he’s a sweetly wooing singer in addition.  Chris Hopkins (quiet in person) is a blazing marvel on the alto saxophone — inventive and lyrical and unstoppable — in much the same way he plays the piano.

And here is what my wise friend Dave Gelly wrote: It’s hard to believe at first that there are only four instruments here. The arrangements are so ingenious, and the playing so nimble, that it could be at least twice that number. But listen closely and you will discover just a quartet of trumpet, alto saxophone, piano and drums – with absolutely no electronic tricks. The style is sophisticated small-band swing, the material a judicious mixture of originals and swing-era numbers and there is not a hint of whiskery nostalgia in any of it. It’s about time this idiom received some fresh attention and here’s the perfect curtain-raiser.

Here is their Facebook page, and their website.

We are fortunate that they exist and that they keep bringing us joyous surprises.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN FOUR MUSICIANS MAKE A BRILLIANTLY VERSATILE ORCHESTRA

The four musicians are Colin T. Dawson, trumpet; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Oliver Mewes, drums: “ECHOES OF SWING,” caught here live performing DIGA DIGA DOO that segues into the Benny Carter variant KRAZY KAPERS with a percussive detour into SING SING SING territories:

Chris Hopkins tells me that this video “was from a big concert in Erlangen, Germany, on October 21, 2013. Colin filmed it himself (for the first time) with 3 cameras and is crazy about learning all the video stuff at the moment. He’s having fun digging into it. You find a picture of the hall on the Echoes Of Swing Facebook page.”

This wonderful quartet also has a new CD, called BLUE PEPPER . . . details to come soon.

May your happiness increase!

AN ELEGANT RECITAL: “PARTNERS IN CRIME” by CHRIS HOPKINS and BERND LHOTZKY

PARTNERS IN CRIME cover

Don’t let the title upset you: there are no victims here.  And the mournful basset hounds are misleading: this isn’t morose music.  It is a two-piano recital by the sterling players Hopkins and Lhotzky.  And it’s almost an hour of absolutely gorgeous music.  What distinguishes this from other discs in the idiom is something rare and irreplaceable.  Taste.

Chris and Bernd are not only astonishing technicians who can scamper all over the keyboard and make joyous noise.  But they are wise artists who know that a rich diet of auditory fireworks soon palls.

(How many people, listening to a gifted player “show off” — a stride pianist play at dazzling speed, a horn player careen around in the upper register — have thought, “That’s really impressive.  Could you stop doing it now — we’re all convinced that you can!”  I know these radical thoughts have entered my mind more than once, and I suspect I am not alone.)

Although they are harmonically sophisticated musicians, Bernd and Chris know that melody and variety are essential.  “Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mr. Morton, and he hasn’t been proven wrong.

So this disc doesn’t wallop us with pyrotechnics — there is a James P. piece, JINGLES — but it roams around happily in the land of Medium Tempo with delicacy and precision.  It isn’t Easy Listening or music to snooze by, but no crimes are committed against Beauty here.  What’s more, these players have understood how to plan a concert — even when the imagined audience may be driving or doing the dishes — so there is never too much of any one approach or style.  The disc begins with the Ellington-Strayhorn TONK (which, once again reminds me of Gershwin in Paris and Raymond Scott in his studio), then moves to a lacy reading of Fud Livingston’s IMAGINATION, Arthur Schutt’s GEORGIA JUBILEE, Thornhill’s SNOWFALL, I GOT PLENTY O’NUTTIN’, the aforementioned JINGLES (a masterpiece at a less-than-frenzied tempo but swinging hard), a lovely Hopkins solo rendition of SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, Bernd’s SALIR A LA LUZ (dedicated to Isabel Lhotzky, the Lion’s SNEAKAWAY as a solo for Bernd, Bernd’s FIVE 4 ELISE (whimsically based on FUR ELISE), Chris’ PARTNERS IN CRIME, DOIN’ THE VOOM VOOM, RUSSIAN LULLABY, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (for Mr. Waller), and  Nazareth’s APANHEI-TE CARAQUINHO.

Discerning readers will note the absence of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ and other songs that have been played many times in the last ninety-plus years, but this disc isn’t devoted to the esoteric for its own sake.  Each of the songs has a strong melodic line: the listener never gets bored, for even the most familiar one here — say, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME — is handled with great tenderness, elegance, and a spacious intelligence, as if the players already knew what cliches and formulaic turns of phrase were possible, and had discarded them in favor of a loving, deep simplicity.  Even their 5 / 4 version of FUR ELISE is delicately hilarious.

And — as an added bonus — the disc is beautifully recorded in the old-fashioned way: two Steinway pianos and one pair of Sennheiser omni-directional microphones.  It’s music for the ears, the heart, and the mind — and (without meaning any acrimony here) the disc is a quiet rebuke to pianists who pound their way through the same tired repertoire and record producers who make it sound artificial.

It’s a beauty, and it celebrates Beauty.

You can buy the disc here.  Or hear samples of Amazonian mp3s here.  Or the EyeTunes version here.

May your happiness increase.

PRETTY / HOT: DUKE HEITGER’S “HOT JAZZ SEPTETT” in GERMANY (May 9, 2011)

Don’t worry about the details just yet.  Just bathe in the sweetly hot sounds of DIANE.  It comes into the ear like honey:

Here are the details for those who require them:

The session was recorded on May 9, 2011, at Duisburger Hof, Germany, in a series called Bernd Albani’s JAZZ LIVE — featuring these heroes: Duke Heitger, trumpet, vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone, vocal; Evan Christopher, clarinet, tenor sax, vocal; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Dave Blenkhorn, guitar; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

More?  You’d like more?  I agree wholly, so here’s the WABASH BLUES:

Extraordinary playing from everyone!

LINGER AWHILE!

And the eternal plaint, BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? — in a performance that’s full of surprises, and I don’t mean the key change at the end:

“Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mister Morton.  And he was so right.

These four wonderful videos are gifts from “ulivids”    and YouTube — thank you, dear benefactors!

FOR ROY: ECHOES OF SWING and FRIENDS at ASCONA

I’ve just been delighted by the Echoes of Swing disc called MESSAGE FROM MARS — the players are Chris Hopkins, alto; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Colin T. Dawson, trumpet; Oliver Mewes, drums.  Here’s the EOS as part of a wonderful ensemble paying tribute to David Roy Eldridge, the man who created exciting jazz wherever he played. 

The colleagues here are tenorist Frank Roberscheuten, guitarist Eddie Erickson, trombonist Dan Barrett, bassist Joel Forbes  — and they romp through an unnamed line on the chord changes of IDAHO that I associate with Roy’s time with Coleman Hawkins: BEAN STALKING.  Thanks to Ned Newitt for the identification.  And the band is pure joy:

“MESSAGE FROM MARS”

No, the aliens haven’t landed.  And this isn’t a detour into NASA’s territory or a nostalgic trip back to the Mickey Mouse Club (although I haven’t been able to get one ancient “The Martians come to New York” joke out of my head*).

MESSAGE FROM MARS is the name of a splendid new disc by Echoes of Swing, a world-class band that lives up to its name and more.  While retaining its essential identity — flexible and convincing — this quartet can sound like a much larger unit, and the disc is characterized by a delightful variety in mood, tempo, and approach.  The players are superb chameleons who remain true to themselves: Chris Hopkins (himself a superb pianist) on alto sax; Colin T. Dawson on trumpet and vocal; Bernd Lhotzky on piano; Oliver Mewes on drums.

Each of those musicians savors the past and does it personal homage: Mewes suggests Catlett and Jones; Lhotzky celebrates Waller and Nat Cole; Dawson evokes Eldridge and Emmett Berry; Hopkins summons up Pete Brown and Carter.  But this isn’t a repertory effort: the music produced here is both profound and hilariously flightly, skittering from surprise to surprise.

On the surface, Echoes of Swing might sound like a John Kirby Sextet spin-off, with tightly voiced ensembles and an affection for “jazzing the classics.”  But they avoid the potential claustrophobia of these categories by being very eager to play hooky: you’ll hear echoes of many other styles and hints of other approaches, all fused delightfully into something both nostalgic and startling.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are Echoes of Swing performing James P. Johnson’s SWINGA-DILLA STREET (recorded only by Fats Waller and his Rhythm before this):

And here’s a Lhotzky original, HIS HONOUR AND THE VERMIN (FLEAS IN MY WIG):

MESSAGE FROM MARS offers a deliciously subtle and witty tasting menu of music — a disc you could listen to all the way through without the slightest hint of monotony; at the same time, you could savor each of the sixteen miniatures for its own surprises without ever getting tired.  There I saw this group for the first and only time in Germany in 2007, thanks to Manfred Selchow, and found them exciting and deep: the disc captures their subtleties and drive wholly.  It’s beautifully recorded and (as a bonus) has expansive notes by our own Dan Barrett.

The songs are SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT /  MESSAGE FROM MARS (groovy and futuristic by Sid Phillips) / THE GHOST OF MARSDEN GHETTO (an atmospheric piece by Colin T. Dawson) / DON’T EXPLAIN / BUTTERFLY CHASE (Lhotzky-Chopin) / THE GOON DRAG (Sammy Price) / DELIRIUM (Arthur Schutt) / HIS HONOUR AND THE VERMIN / MOONLIGHT FIESTA (also known as PORTO RICAN CHAOS) / LIEBESLIED (Kreisler) / TWILIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS (by Chris) / DON’T SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR A RAINY DAY (an obscure Harold Spina pop tune) / ODEON (Ernesto Julio Nazareth) / BUGHOUSE (Red Norvo – Teddy Wilson) / SPRING IS HERE / GAVOTTE (Shostakovich).

Here’s what Scott Hamilton said about this band:

I’ve been listening to these guys for a few years now, and they’re always full of surprises.  This CD is their best yet.  They all have a deep understanding of the literature, and they play from inside.  How they do it all with four instruments is beyond me.

But fortunately the CD isn’t beyond our reach: visit http://www.EchoesofSwing.com. for more information.

[*The Martians land in New York.  They’re friendly interstellar tourists who want to learn everything about us — to swap information and customs.  A curious New Yorker hands one of the Martians a toasted bagel to see what the alien might make of it.  The Martian, to everyone’s surprise, sniffs the bagel, inserts it into where his jaws might be, chews it a bit, and says (through simultaneous translation), ‘Mmmmm.  This would go great with cream cheese and lox.'”]

BERND LHOTZKY PLAYS THE STRIDE MASTERS

What more would anyone need to know?  Lhotzky, the Lion, and James P. on YouTube:

The Lion’s PASSIONETTE:

FADING STAR:

MORNING AIR:

,

James P.’s CAPRICE RAG:

CAROLINA SHOUT:

Although Bernd didn’t compose any of these pieces, his playing shows that he is a Stride Master as well — his taste, touch, and tempos.  Thanks to Bernd and also to Lisa Ryan for pointing out these performances — more are on YouTube in “The Great Kahulik”‘s channel

HOW I WOULD SPEND MY SUMMER VACATION . . .

If I had what W.C. Fields used to call “the spondulics,” mountains of them, (“bucks,” for the uninitiated), I’d be following these bands around Europe.  I especially pant for the Schloss Elmau Swing Festival, which collects some of the finest musicians I’ve ever seen, many of them who have not made many American tours.  To see the gorgeous hotel, click here:

SCHLOSS ELMAU Swing Festival (“The Musicians’ Party”)

 Musical director: BERND LHOTZKY  

 May 27th – June 4th, 2010

Shaunette Hildabrand (voc), Scott Hamilton (ts), George Washingmachine (vio/voc), Duke Heitger (tp), Menno Daams (tp), Chris Hopkins (p/as), Frank Roberscheuten (cl/sax), John Allred (tb), Howard Alden (g), Bernd Lhotzky (p), Joel Forbes (b), Eddie Metz (dm), Michael Keul (dm).

 27.05.10: “The Grand Opening” | 28.05.10: “Moon Songs” | 29.05.10: “Dancing on the Ceiling – A Caribbean Affair” | 30.05.10: “George Gershwin Night” | 31.05.10: “Scott Hamilton” | 01.06.10: “The Various Talents of Mr. Daams” | 02.06.10: “Frank Roberscheuten’s Hiptett” | 03.06.10: “Metzo Forte” | 04.06.10: “Vive Le Hot Club De France – A Joyful Celebration of Django Reinhardt’s 100st Birthday” |

Information and booking: Schloss Elmau, 82493 Elmau / Bavaria (Germany), Tel.: D – 08823 / 18-0.  http://www.schloss-elmau.de

Special swing festival package – 7 nights // Special short stay saver – 5 nights

ECHOES OF SWING

Colin Dawson, Chris Hopkins, Bernd Lhotzky, Oliver Mewes  >4 Jokers in the Pack – and more!<

Their recent album was awarded the “Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz” du Hot Club de France

19.04.10 (20:30), NL-5691 Son, De Zwaan, NL – 0492 / 599890  //  20.04.10 (19:30), D-51399 Burscheid, Kulturscheune Dierath, D – 02174 / 81 47  // 21.04.10 (19:30), D-46236 Bottrop, Kammermusiksaal, D – 02041 / 3 40 18  // 22.04.10 (20:00), D-33102 Paderborn, Kulturwerkstatt, D – 05251 / 3 17 85 //  23.04.10 (20:30), B-4800 Verviers, Königl. Stadttheater, B – 087 / 64 72 67  //  24.04.10 (20:00), D-48249 Dülmen, Aula des Cl.-Brentano-Gymnasiums, D – 02594 / 12400  //  25.04.10 (11:00), D-42699 Solingen, Rheinisches Industriemuseum, D – 0212 / 23 24 1-12  //  26.04.10 (20:00), D-90523 Wendelstein, Jegelscheune, D – 09129 / 90 97 87  //  27.04.10 (19:30), D-97877 Wertheim, Arkadensaal im Rathaus, D – 09342 / 219 11  //  08.05.10 (19:30), D-86911 Dießen/Ammersee, Theatersaal im Augustinum, D – 08807 / 70115  //  09.05.10 (20:00), D-85591 Vaterstetten, Rathaus, D – 089 / 90 90 11 86  //  26.05.10 (20:00), A-6840 Götzis (Voralberg), Kulturbühne Ambach, A – 05523 / 54949  //  18.06.10, D-45127 Essen, Kulturpfadfest, Lichtburg, D – 0201 / 88 45045  //  27.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  28.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-029.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  30.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  08.08.10 (11:00), D-65343 Eltville am Rhein, Schloss Reinhartshausen, D – 01805 / 74 34  //  30.09.10 (20:30), D-86156 Augsburg, Spectrum Club, D – 0821 / 257 28-28  //  01.10.10 (20:00), D-84508 Burgkirchen, Bürgerzentrum, D – 08679 / 91503-210  //  14.10.10 (19:30), D-81375 München, Theatersaal im Augustinum, D – 089 / 1893799-24  //  15.10.10 (20:00), D-82380 Peißenberg, Tiefstollenhalle, D – 08803 / 63 23 03  //  16.10.10 (20:00), D-82229 Seefeld, Schloss Seefeld, D – 08152 / 98 08 97  //  29.10.10 (20:00), D-53925 Kall, Kulturraum der KEV, D – 02441 / 82300  //  30.10.10 (20:30), D-55218 Ingelheim am Rhein, Weiterbildungszentrum, D – 06132 / 89 71 24  //  04.11.10 (20:00), D-49716 Meppen, Theater im Windthorst-Gymnasium, D – 05931 / 15 33 78  //  05.11.10 (20:30), D-26871 Papenburg, Forum Alte Werft, D – 04961 / 82337  //  06.11.10 (20:00), D-24306 Plön, Aula am Schiffsthal, D – 04522 / 8187  //  04.12.10 (20:30), D-63322 Rödermark, Jazzclub Rödermark, D – 06074 / 93200  //  06.12.10 (20:00), D-47051 Duisburg, Theater ‘Die Säule’, D – 0203 / 20125  //   

David Lukács – Menno Daams Orchestra feat. Frank Roberscheuten, Chris Hopkins a.o.

28.04.10 (20:00), NL-1018 Amsterdam, Hermitage Amsterdam, NL – 020 / 530 87 51

The THREE TENORS OF SWING feat. Antti Sarpila, Frank Roberscheuten, Engelbert Wrobel   

24.04.10 (14:00), NL-4201 Gorinchem, Jazzfestival, NL – 0183 / 62 52 58  //  25.04.10 (18:00), D-53111 Bonn, Collegium Leoninum, D – 0228 / 94 92 6-0  //  26.11.10 (20:30), D-73257 Köngen, Schloss Köngen, D – 07024 / 86730  // 

INTERNATIONAL STRIDE PIANO SUMMIT  >virtuoso classic jazz performed on two grand pianos<   

feat. Chris Hopkins, Louis Mazetier, Bernd Lhotzky & Paolo Alderighi:

10.06.10 (20:00), D-59439 Holzwickede, Wasserburg Haus Opherdicke, D – 02303 / 27 25 41   

feat. Bernd Lhotzky, Paolo Alderighi, Ehud Asherie, Chris Hopkins:

21.10.10 (20:00), D-85045 Ingolstadt, Audi Forum, D – 08431 / 4 12 33

feat. Ehud Asherie, Bernd Lhotzky, Rossano Sportiello, Chris Hopkins, Louis Mazetier, Stephanie Trick & Nicki Parrott (bass):

23.10.10 (19:00), CH-5623 Boswil (Zürich), Alte Kirche, CH – 056 / 634 31 32

24.10.10 (17:00), CH-5623 Boswil (Zürich), Alte Kirche, CH – 056 / 634 31 32

Engelbert Wrobel’s Swing Society feat. Chris Hopkins, Rolf Marx, Henning Gailing, Oliver Mewes   

04.07.10 (11:30), D-45964 Gladbeck, Mathias-Jakobs-Stadthalle, D – 02043 / 2 26 74

25.07.10 (11:00), D-53113 Bonn, Bundeskunsthalle, D – 0228 / 66 88-242

21.09.10 (20:00), D-59348 Lüdinghausen, Burg Lüdinghausen, D – 02591 / 926 176

26.09.10 (11:30), D-40764 Langenfeld (Rheinland), Stadthalle Langenfeld, D – 02173 / 794 926

05.10.10 (19:30), D-58511 Lüdenscheid, Kulturhaus Lüdenscheid, D – 02351 / 171 299

07.11.10 (19:00), D-51379 Leverkusen, Scala, D – 02171 / 76 79 59

JAZZIN’ JULY WORKHOP July 5th – 11th, 2010

NL-5595 LEENDE (Nähe Eindhoven), Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Valkenswaardweg 44

Teachers: Shaunette Hildabrand (vocal), Colin Dawson (trumpet), Dan Barrett (trombone), Frank Roberscheuten (saxophone/clarinet), Engelbert Wrobel (clarinet/saxophone), Chris Hopkins (piano/saxophone), Bernd Lhotzky (piano), Howard Alden (guitar/banjo), Karel Algoed (bass), Oliver Mewes (drums).

Information & Booking: +32-11-515326 (Frank Roberscheuten, director)   

More Info: http://www.swingcats.nl/workshop2010

Flyer-Download: JazzinJulyWorkshop2010

Chris Hopkins meets his Piano Friends: Louis Mazetier (Paris)

>virtuoso classic jazz performed on two grand pianos<

16.09.10 (19:00), D-53229 Bonn, Klavierhaus Klavins, D – 0228 / 94 92 6-0

17.09.10 (19:30), D-44869 Bochum, Kunstwerkstatt am Hellweg, D – 01805 / 00 18 12  (14 Ct./Min.)

18.09.10 (20:00), D-58332 Schwelm, Kulturfabrik Ibach-Haus, D – 02336 / 990 540

19.09.10 (16:00), D-44869 Bochum, Kunstwerkstatt am Hellweg, D – 01805 / 00 18 12  (14 Ct./Min.)

For more Information please  visit these websites.

info@hopkins.de

http://www.hopkins.de

info@EchoesOfSwing.com

http://www.EchoesOfSwing.com

FLASHES of BIX / “FLASHES” for BIX

Many YouTube videos of jazz performances are exuberant hot music, nearly violent in their emotional effect. 

This tribute to Bix Beiderbecke’s early life, created by Mook Ryan, is something different.  It beautifully melds photographs of Bix’s early life with his composition FLASHES played by Chris Hopkins and Bernd Lhotzky.  And Mook’s video does what great art, deeply understood, should do.  Hearing the music and seeing the panorama, we celebrate Bix and mourn him.  Beautiful, triumphant, evocative, and sad. 

PERFECT YOUR SWING!

When Dan Barrett was in New York City — playing exquisitely — he offered me a flyer for the July 5-11, 2010, workshop detailed below.  It’s very exciting — the chance for the amateur musicians all around the world to perfect their jazz skills in the old-fashioned way, by learning from the Masters.  My instrumental skills would still need a few years of serious polishing before they would let me in the gate, but surely some of my readers would have a fine time here. 

Or it could be a splashing birthday present for the jazz savant in your household!

Jazzin’ July – workshop 2010                  

5th to 11th july 2010

 

1 week workshop, classic jazz music:

Jazzin’ July, hosted in the idyllic Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Eindhoven NL, is one of the few workshops dedicated to the instruction of classic jazz music.  For this week an international team of teachers, led by Frank Roberscheuten, has been selected based upon their excellent reputation as performers and their ability to motivate and guide students.  A main feature of the course is the focus on playing in bands which develops your knowledge and feeling for various styles such as Blues, New Orleans and Swing. In the daily lessons you will work on the optimal control of your instrument, while emphasis will be given to technique, harmony, improvisation and interpretation. Jazzin’ July is oriented toward practice and competence, aiming to prepare you for actual performance work and to give a new impulse on your personal development.

 Teachers

Howard Alden (guitar & banjo, USA) – www.howardalden.com

Karel Algoed (bass & sousaphone, B) – www.swingcats.nl

Dan Barrett (trombone, USA) – www.blueswing.com

Colin Dawson (trumpet, GB) – www.echoes-of-swing.de/dawson.htm

Shaunette Hildabrand (vocal, USA) – www.swingcats.nl

Chris Hopkins (saxophone, D) – www.hopkins.de

Bernd Lhotzky (piano, D) – www.lhotzky.com

Oliver Mewes (drums, D) – www.echoes-of-swing.de/mewes.htm

Frank Roberscheuten (saxophones & clarinet, NL) – www.swingcats.nl

Engelbert Wrobel (saxophones & clarinet, D) – www.swingsociety.de

 Programme

Monday 5/7 – 18-19: welcome and introduction, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Tuesday 6/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+:  jam session

Wednesday 7/7– 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Thursday 8/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Friday 9/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 18-21.30: exclusive Jazz Dinner presenting the Jazzin’ July Teachers Band, 22-01+: jam session

Saturday 10/7 – 10-12: courses, 12-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 18-21.30: exclusive Jazz Dinner presenting the Jazzin’ July Teachers Band, 22-01: Student’s Concert

Sunday 11/7 – 10-11: breakfast and farewell

 Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Eindhoven NL

In the beautiful nature of the Leenderbos woods, one can find hotel Golden Tulip Jagershorst Eindhoven. The city of Eindhoven can be reached by car within 15 minutes and the hotel is easy to reach from the A2. Guests can park their car at the hotel for free. During a stay there are numerous possibilities to explore the countryside, the historic buildings and quaint villages in the vicinity. The surroundings are perfect for a walk, a bicycle ride and horseback riding.  The hotel has uniquely decorated rooms that are equipped with amenities such as a bath tub, an LCD television, internet and a minibar. Guests can make free use of the wellness center (including sauna and swimming pool). In the hotel there is a brasserie and a bar, where one can enjoy drinks and nice dishes. On sunny days guests can take a seat on one of the hotel’s two outside terraces and enjoy the weather.

Rates

Participants

single room – full board

+ workshop + jazz dinners                 € 960,- pp

Companions

full board (per night)                    € 75,- pp

(supplementary charge of €25,- for each jazz diner)

!  Attention: final date for registration is februari 1, 2010

For information regarding the Jazzin’ July Workshop contact:

Frank Roberscheuten, Bleekstraat 11, 3930 Achel, Belgium

tel & fax +32 11 515326

frank.roberscheuten@planet.nl

Visitors

Jagershorst will be serving an exclusive 4 course Jazz Dinner (beverages included) on both Friday and Saturday, 18.00 till 21.30. Between courses guests will be treated to a unique musical intermezzo from the superlative Jazzin’ July Teachers Band.

4 course dinner (bev. incl.)                        € 65,- pp

Jagershorst Single special: 4 course dinner (beverages incl.)

+ single room + breakfast                         € 125,- pp

Jagershorst Double special: 4 course dinner (beverages incl.)

+ double room + breakfast                        € 215,- 2ps

To make reservations for  the Jazz Dinner contact:

Golden Tulip Jagershorst

Valkenswaardseweg 44, 5595 XB Leende

The Netherlands

Tel +31 40 2061386

Fax +31 40 2062755

info@goldentulipjagershorst.nl

www.goldentulipjagershorst.nl

VISITING NOBILITY

New Yorkers are lucky for many reasons — but here’s something new to celebrate.

Trumpeter Duke Heitger is paying us a visit! 

Duke Heitger

Duke will be playing this coming Sunday (June 7) at the Ear Inn with Matt Munisteri, Jon-Erik Kellso, and the EarRegulars, Tuesday (June 9) at Roth’s Westside Steakhouse in duet with pianist Ehud Asherie, and twice on Wednesday (June 10) — once in a gala at Birdland with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band (guest pianist Dick Hyman will be there, too!) and a late-evening / early-morning gig with multi-talented John Gill.  I don’t know where the latter gig is taking place, but one could ask the very amiable Mr. Heitger in person. 

If he’s new to you, just check out his most recent CD — DOIN’ THE VOOM VOOM — a duet with Bernd Lhotzky on Arbors Records, or my recent post of a YouTube clip, “IS THERE ANYONE FINER?”  He’s someone truly special.  I first saw Duke play at the 2004 Jazz at Chautauqua (have you bought your tickets for this year?) and his passionate swing knocked me out, as they used to say.  And he comes through whole on recordings — but there’s nothing like seeing Duke in person and watching him give his whole heart to the music.  Don’t miss him!

DOIN’ THE VOOM VOOM / THE HOT WINDS

Doin' the Voom Voom CD coverPeople who listen to music extensively and closely become harder to please.  And I am a prime offender.  This over-sensitivity causes me a great deal of trouble, but many new CDs that seem almost wonderful to me.  But the “almost” is lethal.  On these discs, the effort is discernible, the sincerity, the energy — but something just isn’t in place.  One musician might be rushing or dragging the tempo; there could be a slight tension in the band (three members going one way, two thinking about going in the opposite direction); a CD could have an odd recording balance; the material might be excellent in itself but not for these performers, and so on.  If I were to describe this critical tendency of mine, I might call it “attentive,” “discerning,” “”detail-oriented,” “finicky,” or “listening too damned closely,” depending on my mood.  Perhaps if you have, as I have, heard a band of Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Teddy Wilson, Milt Hinton, and Jo Jones, it sets the aesthetic bar sky-high.

And, as an additional caveat, I am distrustful of any writer’s hyperbole, especially mine.  Earnest as it might be, such prose always sounds like ad copy: “this new CD by Minnie and the Meowers offers the best meowing you’ll hear all year” makes me want to run to my litter box and hide under it.

All this is prelude to my stating that two new Arbors CDs — the label that has done so much to document and preserve the kinds of jazz I love dearly — seem as close to perfect as recordings ever get.

The cover of the first CD is depicted above — trumpeter Duke Heitger and pianist Bernd Lhotzky, recorded in Germany in 2008.  Now, the trumpet (or cornet) and piano duet in recorded jazz goes back to Joe Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton in 1924, and it stretches into the future: Louis and Earl, Ruby and Dick Hyman or Ralph Sutton or Ellis Larkins, Butterfield and Wellstood, Randy Sandke and Dick Hyman, Sudhalter and Kellaway, Eldridge and Bolling . . . including brilliant (as yet unrecorded duets) by two of my heroes, Jon-Erik Kellso and Ehud Asherie.  For me, there’s something extraordinary about the pairing of a soaring hot trumpeter and a stride pianist.  For one thing, the trumpeter has a mobile, energetic rhythmic pulse to improvise over; the pianist has the pleasure of darting in and out of the trumpet lines.  It is magically orchestral and magically fulfilling.  That’s the case on this CD with Duke and Bernd.  To start with the basics: I’ve never heard either of them play so lavishly and nobly, and I’ve heard both of them live in a variety of contexts: Duke at Chautauqua for perhaps five years in a row; Bernd at Westoverledingen and the 92nd Street Y.

Maestro Lhotzky first.  Stride pianists often get caught up in their own enthusiasm (and who would blame them?) so even the best tend to get louder and faster, which is perfectly understandable in a romping solo but less than wonderful when there’s another player involved — it’s as if the trumpeter becomes a child trying to catch the ice cream truck that is accelerating down the street.  Zeno’s paradox in jazz.  Bernd doesn’t have that problem: he is steady but never dull, propulsive but calm — appearing to run as fast as he can without losing his essential cool.  The piano sound he creates is wonderful, whether he is pensively wandering through a ballad or doing his best James P. Johnson.  And he is a peerless accompanist, nearly telepathic.

“Lord Heitger,” as Bernd playfully calls him, wears his heart on his sleeve, but his emotion never gets in the way of the music.  He can shout, he can soar, he can growl and moan — at any tempo.  On this CD, his tone is gorgeously round (the way jazz trumpet is supposed to sound but often doesn’t), his passions on display.  He often reminds me of 1930 Louis but he is purely himself, Duke of a royal lineage.

And neither musician embarks on the treacherous business of “recreating the originals.”  Yes, the wise ancestors of jazz are everywhere on this disc: Louis and Fats, Duke and Bubber — but there are also immensely feeling evocations of Sir Edward Elgar (not your usual idea of a solid sender), Willard Robison, Kern and Gershwin, Ray Noble, Richard Rodgers, Toots Mondello (!) and Carlos Gardell.

Most CDs — do I write this too often? — flirt with monotony by being seventy-five minutes of similar or identical music.  This one is a joy from first to last.  And even the Beloved, who’s a tough critic (her ideals are Louis, the early Goodman small groups, Nat Cole’s piano) said, simply, “That’s gorgeous!” before we were a half-minute into “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.”  Hooray for this duo.  May they make a dozen more CDs as rewarding as this one, and may those discs come in a steady stream, perhaps two a year.

Hot Winds coverThe other Arbors CD is the debut of another Marty Grosz assemblage, organization, or perhaps brainstorm — a purportedly all-reed group featuring the dervishes Dan Block and Scott Robinson with a rhythm section of Marty, Vince Giordano, Rob Garcia, and guest appearances from “Panic Slim” on trombone.  I write “purportedly,” because the irrepressible Robinson, who just turned fifty, brought along his cornet, echoe cornet, and Eb alto horn.  I won’t go on about this CD, because I’ve done so already on this blog, in a post called MAKING RECORDS WITH MARTY GROSZ.  (I was lucky enough to attend two of the three sessions at Clinton Studios, and brought both camera and notebook.)

I’ll just say that the CD captures all of the enthusiasm, swing, and wit of those sessions — glorious visits to the land of Hot Jazz.  Engineer Doug Pomeroy did a wonderful job, and you can hear every ping of Rob Garcia’s glockenspiel and the deep resonant sound of Vince’s bass sax, tuba, and aluminum string bass.  More?  Well, Marty essays (as he might say) the other William H. Tyers classic, “Maori,” (recorded by Ellington and anyone else?), pays tribute to his Chicago pal Frank Chace with a tender “Under A Blanket of Blue,” and the whole band stretches out on a wondrously funky “Riverside Blues.”  I am also grateful for this CD because it captures Marty — at last — recording one of my favorite not-too-complicated songs, Herman Hupfeld’s 1933 classic, “I Gotta Get Up and Go To Work,” which is how I feel in the morning.  A neat collage by the Master, typically lemony notes.  To quote Fats on “Swing Out to Victory” : “Yeah, man!  Solid!  Here we come.”

The Arbors Records site is on my blogroll — www.arborsrecords.com — and, as they used to say on radio, “You won’t be sorry.”  And heartfelt thanks to Mat and Rachel Domber — maybe the best patrons this music has, people who put their energy and their support where their good taste is.

P.S.  I need to know.  Was “the Voom Voom ” ever a real dance or is that Ellington-Miley title their version of “That Da Da Strain”?  Surely one of my readers will know.

P.P.S.  Is it “The Hot Winds is a peerless small group,” or “The Hot Winds are astonishing”?  Or is it like using the sprinkler to water the lawn in suburbia — it depends whether the day in question is odd or even on the calendar?