Tag Archives: Bixians

FOR BIX BEIDERBECKE (The Ear Inn, March 13, 2011)

I do not know what memories Bix Beiderbecke had of New York.  Aside from that terrible apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, where he died, I think that many of them were good: recording for OKeh, jamming in Harlem, playing against the Henderson band, drinking at Plunkett’s.  Bixians can, I am sure, supply more.

Although Bix has been gone a long time, New Yorkers still celebrate him in many ways: a vigil on the anniversary of his death; WKCR-FM plays his music on his birthday, and (this year) the EarRegulars devoted an evening to honoring him.

The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Matt Munisteri (guitar), founding members, with Pete Martinez (Albert system clarinet) and Greg Cohen (string bass).  And they played as if Bix was seated at the bar, grinning appreciatively — which, in a way, he always is.

Here’s Hoagy’s FREE WHEELING — later named RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, a wondrous way to start things off.  Catch Jon-Erik’s clarion, flexible lines, Greg’s fervent support.  Pete’s quotation early in his first chorus is a delicious in-joke.  As ALONE, it is the romantic number in the Marx Brothers’ A NIGHT AT THE OPERA.  And his second chorus — only Matt could follow something like that, and how nimbly he does!  Jon-Erik soars; Greg stomps, and the closing ensemble is a triumphant paradox: searing hot and cool to the touch at the same time:

It took me several choruses to recall the name of the next selection — it’s THERE’LL COME A TIME and it’s a tribute to the deep affection and deeper recall that all the editions of the EarRegulars show — not in an academic or pretentious way, but with love.  This version, deliciously, has an easy stroll to it — it could be a 1938 Basie-inspired small group recording for Commodore, couldn’t it?  (Think of Buck, Lester, Durham, Page.)  And wait until the very end — the equine commentary is here and intact:

Pianist and wit Jeff Barnhart says that SAN has the distinction of being the Dixieland tune with the shortest title.  I wouldn’t deny that, but it’s also a rocking composition — especially the way the EarRegulars launch into it, with quartet telepathy all around:

Finally, a song I take as a tribute to my serene and well-establish standing in academia — the JAZZ ME BLUES — which has the immortal line, worthy of Keats, “Professor, come on and jazz me!”  I would have responded but it would have required that I put my camera down, so I couldn’t:

Bix thanks you.  We all thank you, gentlemen of the ensemble!

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DEEP PASSION: MENNO DAAMS – DAVID LUKACS and FRIENDS

It’s been a wonderful day for swinging jazz — tender and hot — because I found these four performances on YouTube. 

The peerless (and under-heralded) trumpeter, arranger, composer Menno Daams has started his own YouTube channel (“menno779”) and its videos include these four delightful performances by the “Daams-Lukacs Orchestra” of jazz classics — homages to Bix, to Louis, and Duke — that are evocations rather than copies even when they seem to be hewing closely to the originals. 

The orchestra — well-rehearsed without being stiff — is composed of Menno on trumpet (and arrangements); David Lukacs on clarinet;  Ronald Jansen Heijtmajer, alto saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone;  Chris Hopkins, piano; Ton van Bergeyk, guitar; Jan Voogd – bass.  Their website is www.myspace.com/daamslukacsorchestra

For the Bixians in the audience (among whom I number myself) here is a delicate reading of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA at just the right tempo (with Chris’s feathery commentary throughout, even suggesting Fats and Teddy, approvingly) before the streamlined closing chorus:

Taking on SINGIN’ THE BLUES is just as difficult, because the 1927 recording is so much a part of our shared history, but this version is just lovely, with its own room to breathe, echoing Berigan as well as Beiderbecke (with lovely work by Ronald on alto).  That blissful chorus in the middle split between Chris and Frank sounded as if Teddy and Lester had decided to honor Bix in 1938:

SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA originally came from Don Redman but has been associated with Louis for nearly eighty years now, and for good reason.  Menno shows just how well he knows that tradition, and the band is in the groove with him.  The tiptoeing reed interlude that follows his solo suggests the Alec Wilder Octet, which is always a good thing, before Chris reminds us that Earl Hines liked this composition as well, and David has his say before a neat ensemble rocks this one to a sweet conclusion: 

And, to end this too-brief program, a subtly intense reinvention of RING DEM BELLS which suggests the great Hampton recording as well as the Ellington originals.  Catch Menno’s delighted grin at Chris’s interpolation of some Willie “the Lion” Smith in his solo.  And then the band offers us (as an encore) an on-the-spot alternate take! 

What a phenomenal small group — with a perfectly integrated subtle rhythm section as well. 

To go back to the Twenties, I’d have to say, “The way this band rocks is just too bad.”

My title comes from a Lucky Thompson line, but it fits here: you don’t learn how to play like this overnight, and you don’t do it with such skill without having a deep passion for swinging jazz as part of your essential self.