Hot jazz can be both leisurely and intense. It doesn’t have to be too loud or too fast. And the best musicians do the neat trick of honoring their ancestors while sounding exactly like themselves.
New evidence of this — a swing session by masters, recorded in 2004 — has recently surfaced. It comes from Mat and Rachel Domber’s (the team responsible for so much joy on Arbors Records) MARCH OF JAZZ in celebration of Kenny Davern’s birthday, and the noble, gently convincing participants are Kenny, clarinet; Danny Tobias, cornet; Tom Artin, trombone; John Bunch, piano; John Beal, string bass; Tony DeNicola, drums.
Kenny Davern is justly the most famous and perhaps the most missed person on stage, but I would like to draw your attention also to the cornet player.
Young Mister Tobias plays with easy lyrical grace. When I first heard him a decade ago (as the trumpet with Kevin Dorn’s Traditional Jazz Collective at the Cajun) I was instantly a convert and fan. At the end of the first set, I went over, introduced myself, and said, “You sound beautifully. I guess you also like Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, don’t you?” He grinned, and we became friends.
Please enjoy, observe, and commit to memory:
JAZZ ME BLUES:
and a most remarkable ALL OF ME, in a romantic tempo (the romance isn’t diminished by Kenny’s silent-film comedy gestures at the start):
I asked Danny what he remembered about this session:
I was delighted that Kenny got me on the event. I remember being very nervous playing because in the hospitality room, on the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel the other musicians watched the stage via closed circuit TV. I was, and am, in awe of the musicians who were in attendance that weekend. I remember talking to Bucky, Joe Wilder, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, and many more. I had no idea what Kenny would call, and was relieved when he asked the audience if anyone had played “All of Me” yet that weekend? He then turned to the band and said, “Nobody played it like this!” and counted off the slowest tempo I’ve ever heard for that tune. It could have been painful but with Bunch, and Tony DeNicola it was pure bliss. Watching the video reminds me of how lucky I was to be able to make music with these masters. Kenny was so generous with me. He would make me tapes of PeeWee, Joe Sullivan, Irving Fazola, Johnny Dodds, etc. When I heard the recording of “Who Stole the Lock?” I flipped out! It was clear after listening to these records that Kenny incorporated these players into his playing. For example when he would soar into the final chorus on a gliss, I knew that he was channeling Fazola. He would, after a gig, invite me to hear something in his car. Sometimes it was a rare recording of Benny Goodman playing tenor, or William Furtwangler conducting movement of a Beethoven symphony.
I miss Tony, and John Bunch, and Kenny. But I feel good that I knew how good it was when it was happening and let them know I felt.
Danny Tobias is a modest fellow with a true subtle talent, and in these videos you can experience what many already know, that he is a master among masters.
And — as a postscript — it reminds me how much I and everyone who knew him miss Mat Domber. (Rachel, bless her, is still with us.) I believe these videos were done by the faithful and diligent Don Wolff: bless and thank him, too.
May your happiness increase!