Tag Archives: Bob Cox

PILGRIMAGES TO BEAUTY

I urge anyone who loves the music to experience it live.  For some, that isn’t possible because of cost or one’s health.  But even though I am proud of my video recordings, they are not the same thing as being on the spot while beauty is created.  And jazz festivals, parties, clubs, concerts can only go on if there are people in attendance.

My readers know all this.  But the trick is to make the great leap from an intellectual awareness (“I should go hear some live jazz . . . someday.”) to action. All of us who have said, “I’ll go to hear Hot Lips Ferguson some other Sunday . . . those gigs will go on forever!” know the sadder reality.)

End of sermon.

I cannot attend this year’s Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans, but my absence means there’s another seat for you.  It begins Friday evening, November 14, and ends Sunday afternoon, the 16th.  In  between I count nineteen one-hour sets of music, in addition to a presentation about the Historic New Orleans Collection, four steam calliope concerts by Debbie Fagnano.  Much of the music will be performed on the two decks of the steamboat Natchez, gliding up and down the Mississippi River.  The artists include Duke Heitger, Don Vappie, Evan Christopher, the Yerba Buena Stompers, Dukes of Dixieland, Tim Laughlin, David Boeddinghaus, Hal Smith, Banu Gibson, Solid Harmony, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Clint Baker, Tom Bartlett, Conal Fowkes, Orange Kellin, Leon Oakley, Steve Pistorius, and another dozen.

I was able to attend in 2013, and had a wonderful time.  Some evidence!

SWEET LOVIN’ MAN by Duke and the Steamboat Stompers:

Steve Pistorius considers the deep relationship between music, memory, and love in A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:

Banu Gibson, as always, shows us her heart, and it’s full of RHYTHM:

and the Yerba Buena Stompers play a later King Oliver piece, EDNA:

INSERT FOUR-BAR MODULATION HERE.

I returned last night from the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, exhausted and uplifted.  The exhaustion will wear off (it always does) after a day or two of treating myself like an invalid, nut the joy is permanent.  It comes from seeing people make friends through music.  The music began with rehearsals at 9 AM on Thursday and ended sometime late Monday morning (I heard the jam session at the pub as I was going up the stairs around 1 AM).  The texts for those mellow sermons were based on the teachings of Johnny Dodds, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, Jabbo Smith, Jean Goldkette, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Chu Berry, Paul Whiteman, Cootie Williams, Adrian Rollini, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Johnny Dunn, Luis Russell, Bing Crosby, Helen Morgan, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Don Byas, Willie Lewis, Sidney Bechet, Al Bowlly, Cliff Edwards, Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Chick Webb, Jelly Roll Morton . . . you get the idea.

And the performers!  Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, Menno Daams, Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, Claus Jacobi, Thomas Winteler, Matthias Seuffert, David Boeddinghaus, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan, Martin Litton, Janice Day, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols, Richard Pite, Malcolm Sked, Phil Rutherford, Spats Langham, Emma Fisk, Frans Sjostrom, Josh Duffee, Nick Ball, Mauro Porro, Henri Lemaire, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Martin Wheatley, Jean-Francois Bonnel. . . and sitters-in at the Pub, including Torstein Kubban.  (If I’ve omitted anyone’s name, it is because yesterday was nearly twenty hours of travel, which does terrible things to cognition.)

And the friends!  Everyone who was there will have a mental list, but I think we all start with Patti Durham — then I think of Bob Cox, Bobbi Cox, Derek Coller, Veronica Perrin, Chris Perrin, the young woman clarinetist, so intent, Jonathan David Holmes, Julio Schwarz Andrade, Andrew Wittenborn — and many more.

If you are wondering, the answer is Yes, I did bring my video cameras.  Plural. Safety first.

And I shot video of all the sets, one jam session / concert in the Victory Pub, and many of the rehearsals — several hundred performances.  It takes some time to upload and download, so I have nothing from this last weekend to share with you at the moment.  But I will.

While you are thinking, “How could I start putting money away for the 2015 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY?” (for that will indeed happen), I invite you to revel in this, recorded at a rehearsal at the 2012 Party:

All over the quite comfortable Village Hotel in Newcastle (with a very solicitous staff) are signs and photographs advertising the pleasures to be found there, all sharing a lower case “v.” at the start, both to show an intensity of feeling (“very!”) as well as remind you of the hotel chain’s identifying logo.  In the mechanism that takes you from one floor to another (I called it an elevator and was reminded that it was a “lift,” because I was in the  United Kingdom now) was a photograph of three pillows reading “v. snuggly” “v. cheeky” and “v.lazy.”

All I will say here, as a bow to the Party and to the Village Hotel and to my heroes and friends, is that I am “v.joyous.”

May your happiness increase!

WE LOST A CHAMPION: MIKE DURHAM

Mike Durham died this morning, peaceably, his family at his bedside.  He had been diagnosed with incurable brain cancer six or seven weeks ago.

Some of you might not know Mike Durham — from Newcastle, England.  He played trumpet, cornet, and kazoo; he sang; he told stories and jokes; he ran a large-scale jazz party (the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival or the Classic Jazz Party) for over two decades.

But all that is not as important as the feeling Mike inspired in people.  When I heard of his death this morning, the words that leaped into my head were Eddie Condon’s — when Eddie was asked to comment on the death of Edmond Hall. And those words are my title.  Mike would be happy to be mentioned in the same paragraph with Eddie and Edmond, for they made his kind of music.  And the reverse was also true.

Mike had so many aspects or facets that it is hard to know where to start — should I begin with the trumpeter, jazz scholar, festival creator, charming man?

He had a deep sense of humor, so perhaps I will begin this post with an example of Mike in action (in front of my video camera, no less) — essaying a Ted Lewis favorite.  Mike would have been amused by the juxtaposition of that title and this occasion, I assure you:

You see there a sly singer, a terse but effective trumpeter (when I first began to hear Mike, I knew he was no exhibitionist, but a subtle creator of epigrams, some sweet, some naughty).  But I first came to know him as the indefatigable organizer of the annual Whitley Bay extravaganzas.  He was gracious and kind, but efficient — and often just a touch exasperated — because he was someone for whom the difference between EXACTLY RIGHT and ALMOST THERE was clear.  So I regret that I rarely had the time to see him when he was not in motion.  I knew, however, that he was a man with depths.

In the four years I knew him (those weekends plus emails) when we could stop talking about the music that was swirling all around us, Mike would speak about something that always surprised me: his experiences in America while working for Proctor and Gamble (or, if I misremember, the large ad agency that handled P&G); his experiences with race relations in the American Midwest; his memories of his father; his serious love of American poetry — ranging from Emily Dickinson to the moderns, all of which he could recite at will.  Right now the Mike I miss is not simply the trumpet player or singer, but the serious man whose utterances, never pompous, seemed deeply felt and deeply observed — I always went away from a conversation with Mike with his gently vehement words ringing in my head.  (By “gently vehement” I mean that he was soft-spoken but emphatic, and his conversation gave one the sense that he had a clear sense of where he was going when he began . . . he didn’t ramble, meander, or repeat himself.)  We had discussed plans to have dinner sometime and actually speak of things . . . but it never came to pass, so the half-dozen hallway conversations were all I ever got to savor.

But I knew him through the music.  Mike loved and understood the hot jazz that shone and blossomed between the wars, and he and his friends took great pleasure in exploring those pathways on their own.  He loved it when a band “got hot” and made the patrons and the room rock.  And you could feel and see his pleasure whether he was leading the band or standing off to one side, tuxedo-clad, ready to introduce the next song.

His pleasure in the music was more serious, his belief in the purity of Hot was deeper than most people’s, and it resulted in his more than two decades’ of nearly religious devotion to its ideals.  Mike didn’t think that simply playing his cornet (he was a great collector of brass instruments) with the West Jesmond Rhythm Kings or playing his records for friends was enough — the music deserved better.  So his Whitley Bay parties were the most vivid, lively, and entertaining jazz “museums” I have ever encountered.  With a cast of international jazz characters — male and female, European, Asian, and South American as well as the usual types — he strove to make the music come alive in front of our eyes and ears.  He didn’t mind an ad hoc group of fellows and gals romping through LESTER LEAPS IN, but that was for the after-hours jam session in the Victory Pub.  Mike’s idea of honoring jazz was serious, and it required much work: to have bands playing the music of particularly notable ensembles and soloists — playing it well, playing it accurately with fervor.  I will offer a video example at the end of this blogpost so that you may understand what Mike did — working all year with his beloved wife Patti — so that we should know what the past REALLY must have sounded like.  And the Rhythmakers, Bix and his Gang, the 1937 Goodman band, Louis and Lillie Delk Christian, and more.  In 2012, he was recovering from an operation and was unable to play the trumpet, but he was a marvel of intense focus and energy — jazz listeners will understand so well that it is not only the musicians on the stand that make the music happen, but the festival organizer who has planned everything twelve months in advance.

A good deal of Mike’s catch-his-breath conversation was based on jokes . . . most of which were new to me, and he never got offended when I held up my hand and said, “Let me save your energy.  Is the punchline ‘And she won’t either?'”  He would move on to one that was even better.

Here I turn to my friend Bob (Sir Robert) Cox, who tells a story: “I knew Mike for 5 years, he always had ready wit and a story or joke to tell.

He was a great fan of Humphrey Lyttelton and his ‘Antidote to panel games’ I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue‘.  Four years ago Mike did a tribute to Humph to include his music and wit.  Unfortunately, Mike left all his notes at home but managed to deliver a side splitting 50 minutes using quotes from a book of Humph’s I just happened to have with me and hastily scribbled notes I handed him from my memory about Samantha, Humph’s scorer on the programme.

Samantha has to go now as she’s off to meet her Italian gentleman friend who’s taking her out for an ice cream.  She says she likes nothing better than to spend the evening licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan.

I will miss Mike as a friend and generous jazz patron.”

Patti Durham very kindly emailed me the news of Mike’s death; it was one of the first things I read this morning.  Later today, at work, I encountered a colleague who told me of the death of her beloved partner — they had been together for four decades — and we both had a hard time not breaking down in the corridor.  With a lump in my throat, I said to her, “The dead know when we weep over them,” something I deeply believe to be true.

But Mike was so impish that I think the tears I shed over him should be in the form of hot jazz.  He was so open-handed in the music he gave us, the music he made possible, that I will close with this video — a small group led by Michel Bastide performing WA WA WA.  “Why is that appropriate for memorial?” some of you might ask.  Oliver, you might know, was a genius at making human sounds with his cornet and a variety of mutes; one of his specialties was imitating a baby crying (he and Bill Johnson had worked up an act that satirized how Caucasian and African-American babies cried).  So my tears, our tears for Mike, will be expressed in JAZZ LIVES through a song whose title reminds me of weeping:

Yes, the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party will go on — as a living, energized memorial to Mike, run by several of the musicians and his young acolytes Julio and Jonathan.  I am certain of this, and have booked a hotel room for that weekend.

I know, however, that I will be shocked a dozen or more times during the long jazz weekend because I will be looking for Mike — well-groomed, tall and slender, running his hand through his white hair in polite exasperation at something . . . the fact that I can’t sit him down and say, “Tell me more!” will make me sad whenever I think of him.

We lost a champion.  We really did.

I send love and sorrow to Patti, Cassie, Chris, and the extended family.  And now I can write no more.

Mike and Patti Durham

Mike and Patti Durham

 

P.S.  For details of Mike’s funeral (March 21, 2013) please click here.    

May your happiness increase.

GENEROUS JOHN STRIKES AGAIN!

There are many generous individuals in this world, and many of them are named John.  But the particular John that readers of this blog will want to celebrate with me is my British “cousin” John Whitehorn.  John and I (along with Sir Robert Cox) first met in Westoverledingen in 2007 — and John was there at this year’s Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival. 

He had a manila envelope, which he presented to me.  Inside . . . treasures!  Tal Farlow:

Johnny Varro, looking more like a teenaged woodsman than a great jazz pianist.

And the much-missed Kenny Davern. 

This was a hit song, but I’d never seen the sheet music — with Louis Prima in a streamlined white double-breasted jacket. 

But I’ve saved the most amazing piece of sheet music for last.  Again, it’s a song familiar to jazz listeners from recordings by Jack Teagarden and another beloved singer:

That lovely picture was a real surprise to me: here’s a close-up of the beautiful Miss Wiley:

Now I call that superb generosity, don’t you?  Thank you, John!

RHYTHM SAVED THE WORLD

This kind of rhythm, especially. 

Sir Robert Cox (known as “Cousin Bob,” more informally) pointed out these YouTube romps to me — posted by “TOTOCHIO” in September 2008.  They feature the wonderful clarinetist Aurelie Tropez, James Evans on clarinet and sax, Keith Stephen and Martin Wheatley on banjo and guitar, and Bruce Rollo on bass.  The venue looks much like one of the rooms in the Village Newcastle — site of the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — but this is just a guess. 

Here’s DINAH:

CRAZY RHYTHM:

and an extended session on I GOT RHYTHM, undisguised:

Thanks for the rhythms, the echoes of Benny and of the QHCF as well!

WE’LL BE THERE!

Where? 

At the twentieth — and last — Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  The theme this year — appropriately — is FROM AFRICA TO THE WORLD, and the bands come from all across the globe. 

It’s taking place this year (that’s 2010) 9-11 July, Friday-Sunday, with a pre-festival concert at the beautiful Sage Gateshead called MIDNIGHT IN MAYFAIR — a tribute by Keith Nichols to the British dance and jazz bands of the Thirties (with Rico Tomasso in that band)!  Once the festival begins, it will be non-stop jazz.  With these bands and players, how could it be otherwise?

La Retaguardia Jazz Band (Chile)

New Orleans Rascals (Japan)

Andy Schumm’s Bixologists (USA)

Les Rois du Fox-Trot (France)

Bohém Ragime Orchestra (Hungary)

Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys (Australia)

Hot Antic Jazz Band (France)

Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (UK)

Hot Jazz Trio (Sweden)

Thomas Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders (Switzerland)

Cecile McLorin Salvant (France) with Jean-Francois Bonnel’s Swing Septet

Chalumeau Serenaders (Germany/Sweden/UK)

Jeff Barnhart’s Ivory & Gold (USA)

Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers

Bent Persson’s New York Orchestra (Red Allen Tribute)

Fidgety Fingers with Langham, Wheatley and Stephen

Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra

Barrelhouse & Boogie/ Kings of Harlem Stride/Ragtime Piano Summit

Spats & His Rhythm Boys

New Century Ragtime Orchestra

West Jesmond Rhythm Kings

Keith Stephen’s Hot Club Trio with Caroline (Irwin)

Flaming Reeds

Don’t be the last one on your block!

Visit http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/home.htm for all sorts of useful details — pictures of the musicians, hotel information, and (of course) ticket prices.

I hear tell that Bob Cox, John Whithorn, Elin and Ron Smith will be there — as well as the Beloved and your humble correspondent.

WHITLEY BAY 2009: THE CLOSING SET

At the end of the three-day memorable immersion that was the July 2009 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, I was overwhelmed — awash in the contradictory feelings I always have when nearing the end of a jazz party.  I am terriibly sad, because I don’t want the music ever to end, but at the same time I have had just about enough of the rich sensations offered in set after set.  I’m full — as anyone would be after a lavish multi-course meal.  But I know Monday is coming . . .  

So when Bob Cox came and found me sometime on Sunday evening and said, “Where have you been?  You’ve got to come and hear the Swiss Yerba Buena Creole Rice Jazz Band,” I was mildly reluctant, being in full-mode.  I confess I was unfamiliar with their work; it may even be that the sheer length of their name intimidated me. 

Rene Hagmann is playing with them,” Bob said, which was  more than enough reason for me go hear their set.  

I was delighted then — and I am delighted now to be able to share these video clips here.  I don’t know the precise personnel of the band, but the Clerc family is its backbone — father Beat and son Fabien on trumpets, and son Olivier on drums and washboard.  Besides Hagmann and Jean-Francois Bonnel guest stars on reeds, there is also Leonard Muller.  I confess I don’t know the name of the wonderful trombonist (and occasional scat-singer); the pianist is Jean-Pierre Burkhard; the banjoist is Nidi Niederhauser; Jean-Daniel Gisclon plays the tuba.  On their latest CD, Regis Dessimoz is also on trumpet.

Much of the SYBCRJB’s repertoire is drawn from venerable jazz recordings, and the thrill is in hearing a real band play these charts live, with solos that dart in and out of the ones we know by heart.      

To start, here is something for the Bixians — a Goldkette romp on I’M GOING TO MEET MY SWEETIE NOW, with reed virtuoso Bonnel playing trumpet:

Then the band honors I’LL BE A FRIEND WITH PLEASURE, with Bonnel taking an impassioned early-Thirties Hawkins solo instead of the vocal:

What more could I say about DO SOMETHING except to point out that the band certainly lives up to the imperative:

Finally, two maniacally ecstatic performances featuring the tireless Olivier Clerc on washboard.  The first is GOIN’ NUTS, taken from a 1929 record session by an Ellington small group, the Six Jolly Jesters.  Once again I apologize to the trombonist — not only didn’t I know his name, but I couldn’t tear my camera lens away from Olivier to record his memorably uninhibited scatting.  So sorry, Sir, wherever you may be at the moment.  And don’t miss Rene Hagmann on kazoo or air-trombone:

And more!  that ancient pop tune, PADDLIN’ MADELINE (or MADELIN’?)  HOME (with its suggestion that she is in no hurry to have the hedonism come to an end so that she can go back to sedate life, Mother and Father, and dry land):

When this set ended, I, too, was on my feet, applauding.  I went over to the piano to buy the SYBCRJB’s latest CD and to pay homage to young Olivier.  I praised his incredible stamina and said — as innocently as I could — that I hoped his lady love was equally appreciative of it.  It took a moment for that to translate, but my naughtiness made him laugh, which was what I had hoped for.

Down the hall, a jam session in the bar lasted until I went to my room at 2 AM– bravely facing the inevitable, that Monday would come soon enough.  Which it did.  But here’s what I took away with me.

Goodbye, Whitley Bay!  See you next year . . . .  

TheSYBCRJB’s website, not incidentally, is http://www.swissyerba.com.  And they have other videos on YouTube — several recorded by the nimble Elin Smith.

O RARE BENT PERSSON (and FRIENDS)!

Last night — Thursday, July 9, 2009 —  I witnessed the kind of jazz creativity and bravery that at times left me with tears in my eyes. 

The occasion was a concert organized by the Swedish trumpeter / cornetist / Louis Armstrong scholar Bent Persson, one of my heroes, in tribute to his hero Louis: “YOUNG LOUIS,” which — in two hour-long sets — demonstrated much about Louis’s first six years of recordings as well as the majesty of players now alive. 

The band was a stellar international crew: Mike Durham, tpt, joining Bent at the start and finish, as well as being a most adept and witty master of ceremonies; the gruff trombonist Paul Munnery; the brilliant reedman (clarinet and alto this time) Matthias Seuffert; the nimble pianist Martin Litton; the remarkable plectrist (banjos and guitar) Jacob Ullberger; the very fine brass bassist Phil Rutherford; the frankly astonishing percussionist Nick Ward.  The concert took place at the very modern Sage Gateshead in Newcastle, UK — lovely acoustics and a sound engineer at the back who was truly paying attention!  I attempted to videotape the whole thing (being a man of daring but not much discretion) but was stopped by an usher who whispered ferociously that there was NO photography of any kind allowed and I would have to leave if I continued . . . so I stopped.  But I did capture the band’s second song, a stately rock through King Joe Oliver’s WHERE DID YOU STAY LAST NIGHT? — much as it might have sounded in Chicago, 1922-23.  My video doesn’t capture everything — but you can see the graceful arcs of Nick Ward’s arms behind his drum set: I had a hard time taking my eyes off of him.   

Lovely as it is, that performance can’t summon up all of what I found so moving in this concert.  It wasn’t a pure repertory performance, where musicians strive to reproduce old records “live”; no, what was fascinating was the fervent interplay between the Past and Now, between the Great Figures and the living players onstage.  Everyone in this band knew the original records, but they were encouraged to dance back and forth between honoring the past by playing it note-for-note and by going for themselves.  Thus, Bent created solos that sounded like ones Louis might have — should have! — recorded, and his bravery and risk-taking were more than heartening.  I have never seen him in person, and he would give the most timid of us courage to learn the craft, to shut our eyes, and to make something new.  His playing on POTATO HEAD BLUES was immensely moving — watching him dare the Fates and declare his love for Louis in front of our eyes.  Bent also sang in several performances — mostly scatting, but once or twice delivering the lyrics in a sweetly earnest way — another example of an artist going beyond the amazing things we’ve already come to expect.  It was also delightful to watch the musicians grin broadly at each other as the beautiful solos and ensemble work unfolded.   

The concert moved briskly from Louis’s sojourn with Oliver to his work with Clarence Williams small groups, his own Hot Five and Seven, an evocation of Jimmy Bertrand’s Washboard Wizards, Louis’s duet with Earl Hines, his Hot Choruses (as reimagined by Bent over a thirty-year period), with more than a few surprises.  One of them — gloriously — was the appearance of bass saxophone titan Frans Sjostrom for a version of BEAU KOO JACK by the trio called, so correctly, the Hot Jazz Trio (their one CD is under that name on the Kenneth label): Bent, Jacob, and Frans.  Wonderful both in itself and as a reinvention of that brightly ornate recording.  Sjostrom stayed around for the final ensemble celebration on HIGH SOCIETY, which brought tears to my eyes.   

I am posting this on Friday morning, hours before the Whitley Bay extravaganza — some 130 bands playing in rotation for three days in four simultaneous locations — is scheduled to begin.  There’ll be more magnificent, moving jazz, I am sure!  It promises to be both uplifting and overwhelming.  (And, as an extra delight, I am joined here by two of my three Official British Cousins — Bob Cox and John Whitehorn — men of great humor, generosity, and sensibility — whom I first met at Westoverledingen, Germany, in 2007, when we were rapt attendees at another Manfred Selchow jazz festival.  Always nice to have friends nearby!)

A postscript: at the concert, copies of an otherwise unknown compact disc were for sale — a recording of a similar YOUNG LOUIS concert from 2002, with many of the same players.  I snapped up one copy (paying for it, of course) and by the end of the concert, the CDs were all gone.  Let us hope that Bent and Co. choose to reissue that one and other versions.  I’m going to treasure it, as well as my memories of the concert I experienced.