Tag Archives: Bill Ransom

A SWINGING WEEKEND IN THE COUNTRY: JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2013 (September 19-22, 2013)

It’s coming.

Although it’s only the end of April, I am excited when I think about Jazz at Chautauqua, once again, which is a highlight of the musical year.  I’ve been attending these splendid parties since 2004, and have made new friends, heard excellent music, and generally had my spirits lifted.

This year, the 16th Jazz at Chautauqua will take place from September 19 to the 22nd.  For more information, click here.  For those who have never attended one of these weekends, it is marked by pleasures unique to that spot and that establishment.

It’s held in a beautiful 1881 wooden hotel, the Athaeneum, efficiently run by Bruce Stanton and a very genial staff — the very opposite of an anonymous chain hotel.  Walking around the grounds (when you’re not observing the beauties of Lake Chautauqua — which might include Scott and Sharon Robinson, canoeing) you see immaculately kept houses and cottages, mounds of hydrangeas . . . picture-postcard territory.  Inside, the guests enjoy substantial meals and an open bar . . . and music to dream about, starting on Thursday night with informal jamming in a cozy room, then moving to the parlor for Friday afternoon piano and guitar recitals, then a full weekend of jazz, hot and sweet, in a large ballroom — with all the amenities a ten-second walk away.

The best musicians, too.  The 2013 players and singers are (in neat alphabetical order for a change) Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.  Something for everyone.  Good men and women, loyal, faithful, and true.

Nancy Griffith, the Swing Sheriff, makes sure that the jazz train runs on time, that everyone is happy in Dodge, that the little dogies are swinging.

If Jazz at Chautauqua is new to you, I propose that you type those magic words into the “Search” box of JAZZ LIVES — and you will see beautifully relaxed performances from the most recent five years . . . then you can go here and look into the details of tickets and prices and all that intriguing (but necessary) detail.

And as the video-soundtrack to such endeavors, let me offer two performances from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua — never seen before! — by a strolling group: Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Frank Tate, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums:

LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

CLOSE YOUR EYES:

May your happiness increase.

THE TALENTED MR. GREENSILL: MIKE GREENSILL, DAN BARRETT, HARRY ALLEN, HOWARD ALDEN, FRANK TATE, BILL RANSOM at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

As I wrote in an earlier post, I had known Mike Greensill, on records and in person, as the splendid intuitive pianist / partner of singer Wesla Whitfield, who happens to be his life-partner as well.

But until the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua, I hadn’t realized how many vibrant selves were packed into Mr. Greensill — someone who can play fine eloquent solo piano or push a band along beautifully; a sweetly earnest singer; an on-the-spot head arranger and effective bandleader; a winning composer . . . as you will see below.  It did not hurt Mr. Greensill that he had some of the best players in the world on the stand: Dan Barrett, trombone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Howard Alden, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums.

The set had a real Ellingtonian flavor . . . .   That didn’t bother us.

JUST SQUEEZE ME:

THEME from SOUNDS LOCAL (explained by the composer)

I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY:

ELLINGTONIA (DON’T YOU KNOW I CARE? – ALL TOO SOON – CHELSEA BRIDGE – WARM VALLEY):

“Beautiful, beautiful!” to quote Mr. Waller.

May your happiness increase.

BLOCK BRINGS IT: DAN BLOCK, HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, BILL RANSOM at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

Everyone knows Dan Block as a dazzling reed player — clarinet, alto, tenor, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, flute — but I had only heard of his trumpet playing.  When he brought that horn to the stage at Jazz at Chautauqua this September, I was delighted . . . and I wasn’t alone.

And he was in superb company — tenorist Harry Allen, pianist Rossano Sportiello, string bassist Jon Burr, and drummer Bill Ransom.

Here are two extended performances from their brilliant set.

BLUE SKIES morphs into IN WALKED BUD and then back to its Berlin roots:

THE MAN I LOVE begins with Harry playing the verse most prettily, then has a rewarding section where he and Jon Burr evoke the duet of Don Byas and Slam Stewart so many decades ago, then — as if by mutual amused inspiration — everyone quotes ISN’T SHE LOVELY at another later point.  The standards aren’t exhausted by any means in the hands of these players:

And just a brief reminder — Dan and gifted friends Ray Gallon, Tim Horner, Chris Haney, Paul Meyers, and Scott Robinson will be appearing in a late-night set at the Metropolitan Room (34 West 22nd Street, New York) this Thursday, November 15.  Details here.

May your happiness increase.

JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2012 IS ALMOST HERE!

Four little reminders.

1.  Jazz at Chautauqua begins on Thursday evening, September 20, 2012, and concludes on Sunday afternoon, September 23.  (The Traditional Jazz Workshop precedes it — details below.)

2.  I have been attending Jazz at Chautauqua every year since 2004, and it is one of the high points of my year.  It’s not simply the music, which is superb and varied.  It’s the lovely Hotel Athenaeum overlooking Lake Chautauqua, the beautiful surroundings (think old-fashioned houses with awnings and hydrangeas), and seeing old friends — meeting new ones, too.

3.  I think these are magical names (in alphabetical order, for a change): Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Alex Hoffman, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Rebecca Kilgore, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Bill Ransom, Randy Reinhart, Bob Reitmeier, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Lynn Stein, Frank Tate.  

4.  In case all of this seems financially overwhelming (and I understand that feeling, really) Jazz at Chautauqua has now arranged something they call single-event pricing . . . which means that you can buy a ticket to attend one or more of four lengthy sessions (Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon) for $120 each.  Details can be found here.  And it is not too late to sign up for the Traditional Jazz Workshop: imagine taking a master class with personalized instruction from Dan Barrett, Becky Kilgore, Duke Heitger, Scott Robinson, and the others — the stuff that dreams are made of.

I consider it a stroke of great good fortune to be attending Jazz at Chautauqua again this year, and I would like everyone I know who loves this music to share the pleasure . . . although they’d then have to build a much larger hotel ballroom.

May your happiness increase.

SWEET AFFIRMATIONS: ANDY SCHUMM, DAN BARRETT, DAN LEVINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, GLENN HOLMES, BILL RANSOM (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 18, 2011)

The 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua was full of delights, and this set was one, a congenial group of musicians taking their time through three late-Twenties pop songs.  Perhaps it’s coincidental, but you’ll notice that the titles of the first and third song say YES in their own ways, and the one-word title of the middle song is all about sweetness.

The heroes up on the bandstand are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, reeds; John Sheridan, piano; Glenn Holmes, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums.

And the songs?

After an affirmative ensemble, ‘DEED I DO shifts into gear with Dan Levinson’s sweet-sour solo and the chord backgrounds behind it.  Then Andy shouts for joy and the other gentlemen of the ensemble follow in their own way:

SUGAR has connections to Ethel Waters, McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans, Louis Armstrong and Vic Dickenson, and of course that Bix fellow.  The Schumm-Sheridan duet on the verse is a delight!  The lazy Trumbauer tenor solo by Dan L. and the more bumptious one by Dan B. are equally sweet, as is Sheridan’s quiet rollicking, with a very Lestorian Dan leading us out.  Andy’s little coda suggests both Lester and Bobby Hackett:

And the unusual one (although I believe it was a pop hit), THERE’S “YES YES” IN YOUR EYES, which starts with a hot cadenza, turns the corner into a sweet melody chorus — enjoy the transition into an improvised ensemble and the backing Sheridan gives the soloists — before the brassmen have a very concise exchange of ideas and Bill Ransom takes a volatile drum break to close things out:

I’m sorry that neither of the two Dans burst into song — I will bet that both of them knew the lyrics.  Here’s the chorus:

Your lips tell me no no
But there’s yes yes in your eyes
I’ve been missing your kissing just because I wasn’t wise
I’ll stop my scheming and dreaming ’cause I realize
Your lips tell me no no
But there’s yes yes in your eyes
And here are two covers:

I knew Bunk Johnson had recorded it, but not Dean Martin, Eddy Howard, as well as Ken Colyer.  And — since the twenty-first century is full of marvels, one site tells me that I could have THERE’S YES YES IN YOUR EYES as a ringtone on my cellphone.  Tempting, no?  Although the NO NO part of the lyric is less encouraging.

To this music, wouldn’t you say YES YES?

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA, THREE BY ANDY STEIN (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 17, 2011)

Violinist / saxophonist / vocalist / composer Andy Stein is very serious about his music but light-hearted about many other things, and this comes through in performance as a kind of ebullient playfulness.

Here’s a refreshing sample of the Stein magic from Jazz at Chautauqua (Sept. 17, 2011): hot jazz, sweet music, and a good dose of hilarity — not in that order, but you will see that for yourself.  Andy’s compatriots are Randy Reinhart, cornet; Dan Levinson, reeds; Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano; Glenn Holmes, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums.

From the 1936 Fletcher Henderson book (a comedy-meets-jazz number that we hope was a wow at the Grand Terrace: it must have impressed the Victor people as well), a precursor to JEOPARDY — KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?:

And something pretty — I hear Vic Dickenson in my mind’s ear, since this was the feature number he chose most often, with good reason — IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD:

From the Twenties but still lively – for Bix and Eddie, for Joe Venuti and Joe Sullivan, Lester and Lee Castle, JAZZ ME BLUES:

Long may Andy and his Gang — in whatever version! — prosper.

CLASSIC SONGS MADE NEW: RANDY SANDKE, HARRY ALLEN, ANDY SCHUMM, JIM DAPOGNY, GLENN HOLMES, BILL RANSOM at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2011

One of the eternal pleasures of jazz improvisation is that — as Hot Lips Page is supposed to have said, “the material is immaterial.”  So in the hands of inspired improvisers, it doesn’t matter how elderly or familiar the song is: their task and delight is to reimagine and levitate what we thought we already knew by heart.

This happened when Randy Sandke, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Andy Schumm, cornet; Jim Dapogny; Glenn Holmes, bass; Bill Ransom, drums, took the stage in mid-September 2011 at Jazz at Chautauqua for three “good old good ones.”  Listen closely: there’s an innate respect for the original songs and their associations, but an inventive originality throughout.

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS (for Bing Crosby and the many musicians inspired by him):

SWEET LORRAINE (music for sensitive brass, by way of Jimmie Noone and Nat Cole):

THE SHEIK OF ARABY (for Valentino and the aforementioned Lips Page):

Old chestnuts made fresh and lively!