Tag Archives: Bob Draga

MONTEREY DELIGHTS! (Jazz Bash By the Bay, 40th Anniversary Edition, March 5-8, 2020)

It’s never too early to get prepared for joy, especially the varieties that the Jazz Bash by the Bay delivers so generously.  (An All-Events badge is available at a discount before December 31, so if thrift makes your eyes gleam, check here.) Now.

I’ve been attending this March festival every year since 2011 (I missed 2018) and have fond memories.  I could write a good deal about the pleasures of this grouping of musicians and fans, and the pleasures of being able to walk around a truly charming town center . . . or the pleasure of being a guest at the Portola Hotel and Spa, with the music just a trot away, but I will simply direct you to the Bash’s website, where you can find out such useful information as the dates (March 6-8), the band schedule (not available yet), ticket prices, and the bands themselves.

For me, the bands and guest stars are the reason to come to a particular festival, so I will list them here (as of January 2020) so you can see the delights to be had.  First, the Musician of the Year is my hero Marc Caparone, so even though I doubt there will be a parasol-laden coronation, I want to be there to see the rites and praises.  Then, guest stars Bob Draga, Brian Holland, Danny Coots, Dawn Lambeth, Eddie Erickson, Gary Ryan, Jeff Barnhart, Jerry Krahn, and Katie Cavera.  The bands: Blue Street Jazz Band, Bye Bye Blues Boys Band, Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, Cornet Chop Suey, Crescent Katz, Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Fast Mama Excitement, Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Ivory&Gold, Le Jazz Hot, Midiri Brothers, Sierra Seven, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, We Three (Thursday only), Yve Evans and Company, and the Zydeco Flames.

Looking at the 2019 schedule, the Bash offered four simultaneous sessions for full twelve-hour days on Friday and Saturday, and a half day on Sunday . . . one hundred and fifty sessions, including full bands, singers, solo and duo pianos, youth bands, sets for amateur jammers, and more.  Even someone like myself, who doesn’t fell compelled to see and hear everything, finds it a delightfully exhausting experience.  There’s a separate Thursday-night dance and an appearance by We Three, and I quote: “Kick off Jazz Bash by the Bay on Thursday, March 5, 2020, with a big band dance party featuring Clicktrax Jazz Orchestra. Attendees will enjoy danceable swing and traditional jazz at the Portola Hotel and Spa from 7:30 to 11 pm. Admission is $25.00. Also, in a Special One-Night-Only appearance, the hit trio We3 featuring Bob Draga, Jeff Barnhart, and Danny Coots will be playing from 7 to 8:30 pm. Admission is $30.00. Add the dance for $20 more. All tickets can be purchased by phone, mail, online or at the door.”

Did you notice that there is an Early Bird All-Events Badge at a discount if you order before December 31, 2019?  Yes, I repeat myself: details here.

For me, a post advertising a particular festival is not effective unless some musical evidence can be included.  I broke one of my rules — that is, there are musicians in the 2011-19 videos below who do not appear at this year’s Bash, and I apologize to them if anyone’s feelings are bruised.  But I started to go through the 200+ videos I’d posted of various Monterey Bashes, and some of them were do fine that I couldn’t leave them out.  You’ll get a panoramic sense of the wide variety of good, lively, inventive music that happens here.  And each video has a detailed description of who’s playing and singing, and when it happened.

an old song, swung, 2019:

for Django:

Becky and the blues:

the late Westy Westenhofer:

Ivory&Gold (Jeff and Anne Barnhart):

Paolo Alderighi, Phil Flanigan, Jeff Hamilton:

Katie Cavera and the Au Brothers:

Bob Schulz and the Frisco Jazz Band:

Allan Vache, John Sheridan, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, Ed Metz:

High Sierra:

Hot Strings at Monterey 2011:

a jam session with Bryan Shaw, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, Marc Caparone, John Reynolds, Katie Cavera, Ralf Reynolds:

Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Jeff Hamilton, performing Sonny’s composition that insures that no rodents visit the Portola during the Bash:

It might seem a long way away, but it isn’t.  And it’s a truly enjoyable event.

May your happiness increase!

PISMO JOYS (Part Three): “GEORGE’S ALL-STARS”: BOB SCHULZ, BRANDON AU, ADRIAN CUNNINGHAM, BOB DRAGA, JASON WANNER, LARRY SCALA, KATIE CAVERA, DANNY COOTS (October 26, 2018, Jazz Jubilee by the Sea)

Even more fun from the 2018 Pismo Jazz Jubilee by the Sea — two delightful performances from a Condonian ad hoc ensemble (never before and never again) assembled by George Smith, jazz musician, enthusiast, benefactor, and former director of the festival, someone who’s still deeply involved and makes good music happen.

Here are the two closing performances from “George’s All-Stars,” an old-fashioned group of hot individualists skilled at blending their individual sounds and styles into a band, Condon style.  From the back (for a change) it’s Danny Coots, drums; Katie Cavera, string bass; Larry Scala, guitar; Jason Wanner, piano; Bob Draga, clarinet; Adrian Cunningham, clarinet and tenor; Brandon Au, trombone; Bob Schulz, cornet, vocal.

First, the venerable yet heated I FOUND A NEW BABY:

and the Alex Hill-Claude Hopkins I WOULD DO [MOST] ANYTHING FOR YOU:

Wasn’t that nice?  Thanks so much, Mr. Smith.

May your happiness increase!

EXTRA! EXTRA! HOT TIMES IN PISMO (Jazz Jubilee by the Sea, October 25-18, 2018)

As I’ve written here, I am making my maiden voyage to the Pismo, California, JAZZ JUBILEE BY THE SEA next month — about five weeks from now.  While my suburban neighbors will be having illicit affairs with their leaf blowers and looking skeptically at their down parkas, I’ll be in Southern California, enjoying the sounds of (among others) Larry Scala, Bob Schulz, Carl Sonny Leyland, Chloe Feoranzo, Clint Baker, Creole Syncopators, Danny Coots, Danny Tobias, Dawn Lambeth, High Sierra, IVORY&GOLD, Jeff Barnhart, Marc Caparone,  Midiri Brothers, Mike Baird, Adrian Cunningham, the Au Brothers, The Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band . . .  The list is subjective, and I am sure that someone’s favorite band in the cosmos has been omitted, but a complete listing follows below.

I invite you to join me, of course.  Details here (Facebook) and the much more comprehensive Pismo Jazz website.

But for people like me, and I would think many of my readers, going to a jazz festival is not just a matter of, “Oh, I’ll drop by this place.  Music is coming out of the windows and front door,” but a matter of strategy: “If we go to see the Land Rovers at 3, we’ll be in a perfect place to see the Hot Tortoises at 4:15, and then the Adrian Rollini Memorial Orchestra at 7, but we’ll have to miss the Broken Sandals on Friday.  No worry, though, they are playing an 8 AM Saturday set,” and so on.

“Hey, Mister! Hey, Lady! Get the Full Band Schedule here! The Pismo News!”

Such cogitation — worthy of a great eighteenth-century European general planning his campaign — is only possible when one has a Band Schedule, which I can offer you now, courtesy of the very kind people who run things.  Hence:

There’s a version of this schedule on the Jubilee website here, which may be easier to read and annotate.  I am sure that the schedule will also be given out to attendees when they buy tickets / pick up badges onsite.

Veterans of the Jubilee have pointed out to me that the performance venues are somewhat spread-out.  I am moderately ambulatory (that might be a euphemism) but my days of sprinting from one place to another are over.  So I report with pleasure the news from Jubilee HQ:

If you get stranded at a venue, we do have buses.  We are trying something new. Every venue will have a bus.  That bus will be available at the end of the set.  They will take you where you want to go, venues first.  If that bus is full, another bus will be along and dropping people off.

Very reassuring!

And in the spirit of “breaking news,” here’s a bouncy love song from 1934 by Chick Bullock and his Levee Loungers.  Alas, Sterling Bose (or Stirling?), Perry Botkin, Joe Venuti, and Jack Teagarden won’t be at the Jubilee — they have other commitments — but I know you and I will be in for a weekend of singular sights and music:

May your happiness increase!

“WON’T YOU COME ALONG WITH ME?”: PISMO JAZZ JUBILEE BY THE SEA (October 25-28, 2018)

I’m going to my first Jazz Jubilee by the Sea (although I have visited Pismo, California, once before) for hot jazz, floating swing, gritty blues, tender ballads, and good times among friends this October.

I can now spend the time between late August and late October figuring how I will see my favorite bands.  There are twenty-plus bands and guest stars, a cornucopia of jazz and other musics.  Here are some of the august participants, listed as they appear on the flyer:

Professor Cunningham and His Old School • Larry Scala, Dawn Lambeth, and Friends • The Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band • Tom Rigney and Flambeau • Blue Street • Cornet Chop Suey • High Sierra • Midiri Brothers • Tom Hook and the Terriers • Dick Williams Jammers • We Three + One • Ivory&Gold® • Creole
Syncopators • Rag Bone Saints • Mariachi Autlence • High Street
Party Band • The Au Brothers • Sue Palmer and Her Motel
Swing Orchestra • Night Blooming Jazzmen • Ulysses
Jasz Band.
SPECIAL SETS WITH GUEST ARTISTS
Bob Draga • Carl Sonny Leyland • Larry Scala • Dawn Lambeth •
Jeff Barnhart • Danny Coots • Washboard Steve • Pat Yankee •
Bob Schulz • Paul Ingle • Danny Tobias • Chloe Feoranzo.

Now, if you’ve been reading JAZZ LIVES for any length of time, you can recognize the names of my friends and heroes above.  I will be there to celebrate them and hear new bands and new combinations, as is my habit and sometimes good fortune.

Here’s a promotional video from 2016 — an audio-visual tasting menu:

and one of my happy souvenirs of good times in Pismo — a 2014 concert by Clint Baker, Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Mike Baird, Carl Sonny Leyland, Bill Reinhart, Jeff Hamilton:

I hope to see you there for some good sounds.  Here is the Jubilee website, and here is their Facebook page.  It would be pleasing if you said “JAZZ LIVES sent me,” if, in fact, I did.  It’s too early to start charging camera batteries, but I assure you that my psychic ones are at full capacity.

May your happiness increase!

GOING MY WAY? (to the JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY, March 6-7-8, 2015?)

bash

I hope that posts such as these aren’t too frustrating for those JAZZ LIVES readers who are far away from the particular Mecca of Hot.  If you’re in Illinois or Newcastle, you are hereby let off the hook.  But for those readers who can, or could, or might . . . read on.

The 2015 Jazz Bash by the Bay is happening soon — an opening concert / dance on Thursday, March 5, then full-steam ahead for Friday through Sunday. I have delightful memories of being there from 2011 on — a very friendly and hospitable festival, the staff and volunteers exceedingly nice, the rooms in which one hears and sees music very comfortable.  And the music itself, although the players and singers shift slightly from year to year, is always both superb and varied.  Your favorite bands — including High Sierra, the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, Ivory & Gold, Ellis Island Boys, Crescent Katz, Cocuzzi/Vache All Stars, Le Jazz Hot, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra.  Soloists: Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Ehud Asherie, Stephanie Trick, David Boeddinghaus, Banu Gibson, Dawn Lambeth, Yve Evans, Jeff Barnhart, Jason Wanner, Marc Caparone, Bob Draga, John Reynolds, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Mehling, Clint Baker, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Danny Coots, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, and many more.  Everything from hot jazz to swinging rhythmic ballads to ragtime, stride, and boogie-woogie, with offferings of zydeco and gypsy swing.

It’s a lovely place to visit, also — my meteorological memories of Monterey in March (say that once at a conversational tempo) are lovely: sunny and warm.

Here are the band schedules.  I spent a happy fifteen minutes this morning with a green highlighter, noting sets I absolutely wanted to be at — and there were no idle hours.

And just for our collective happiness, here are my videos of a March 2011 performance featuring Clint Baker, Marc Caparone, Howard Miyata, Mike Baird, Dawn Lambeth, Katie Cavera, Jeff Hamilton, and Marty Eggers — mixing sweet, swing, and hot.

I am eagerly looking forward to it.  And I hope to see you there, too.  No fooling. And if you’re hungry for more music, you can search this site for “bash” or “Monterey” and find videos from 2011-14 . . . better yet, you can make plans to attend.

May your happiness increase!

ON THE ROAD TO MONTEREY (March 2014)

I am not readjusting Kipling’s famous lines for the twenty-first century, simply reminding everyone that the Jazz Bash by the Bay (a/k/a Dixieland Monterey) is almost here.  Think of this blogpost as a public service announcement, more exciting but just as necessary as those reminders to change the battery in your smoke detector.

Here is the schedule of sets for Friday / Saturday / Sunday (that’s March 7-8-9) . . . very good news indeed, with music from Rebecca Kilgore, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, High Sierra, Dawn Lambeth, Jeff Hamilton, Marty Eggers, Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Bob Draga, Gordon Au, his brothers and uncle How, the Ellis Island Boys, Katie Cavera, Le Jazz Hot, Paul Mehling, Sam Rocha, Bob Schulz, Ray Skjelbred, Jason Wanner, Bob Draga, Danny Coots, Yve Evans, Frederick Hodges, Sue Kroninger, Virginia Tichenor, Steve Apple, Chris Calabrese, Don Neely, Eddie Erickson, Ed Metz, Phil Flanigan . . . . and I know I am leaving out a multitude here. But the music starts on Thursday night, so be sure to get there early!

Here is information on ticket pricing, ordering, and all that intriguing data.

I think JAZZ LIVES readers who live in California know all about the Jazz Bash by the Bay, for it has been generously offering hot music of all kinds for three decades.  If the festival is new to you, and you can consider being there, you should: it has been a consistent pleasure for me since the first deliriously good one I attended in March 2010. I won’t belabor the subject, but if you search this blog for “Monterey” you will find enough wonderful improvisatory evidence; if you go to YouTube and type in “Dixieland Monterey” or “Jazz Bash by the Bay” the same thing will happen.  A powerful series of advertisements for those who can carpe the diem while the diem is still hot, or something like that.

May your happiness increase!

IT HAPPENS IN MONTEREY (March 7-9, 2014)

These two worthies found love at the Jazz Bash by the Bay:

I am not proposing that everyone who goes to this year’s festival (March 7-9) will come away with the Love of His / Her Life — maybe you are all already spoken for.

But the music will be wonderful. And I write this as someone who’s been there since 2010.

For me, the Jazz Bash by the Bay was a transformative experience.

I had not been to California since having been conceived there . . . . insert your own witticism here. And when I had the notion in March 2010 of going to see and hear the people I so admired in their video appearances, I expected to have a good time in a new jazz setting, perhaps make a few new friends.

It was a life-altering experience: I came back to New York and said to the Beloved, “I’ve never had such a good time in my life. Do you think we could spend the summer in California?”

Fast forward to 2014, where I am writing this from Novato, with serious plans to make the Golden State my retirement home.

So if the Jazz Bash by the Bay can make one couple find love; if it can make a native New Yorker say, “I’ll move to California,” I think its powers are . . . powerful.  But enough personal narratives.  What’s in store for you?

As always, a wide variety of well-played music.

You can visit the site to find out if Your Favorite Band is going to be there, but here are some kinds of music that will be played: blazing stride piano in solo and duo, boogie-woogie, sweet singing in so many forms, rocking small-band swing, New Orleans ensemble polyphony, trad, Dixieland, blues, zydeco, gypsy swing, classic songs from the Great American Songbook, Jazz Age hot dance music, ragtime piano, stomp, swing, music to dance to, San Francisco jazz, washboard rhythm, music to hold hands to.

And the stars?  Well . . . Ray Skjelbred, High Sierra, Carl Sonny Leyland, Bob Draga, Rebecca Kilgore Trio, Dan Barrett, Ivory and Gold, Ellis Island Boys, Marc Caparone, Le Jazz Hot, Jeff Hamilton, Dawn Lambeth, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Yve Evans, Katie Cavera, Paul Mehling, Clint Baker, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Frederick Hodges, Jim Buchmann, Eddie Erickson, Jason Wanner, John Cocuzzi, Howard Miyata, Big Mama Sue, Ed Metz, the Au Brothers, Bob Schulz, Pieter Meijers, Brady McKay, Tom Rigney, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra . . . and more, and more.

Important links.

The BAND LINEUP.

The all-important too-Much-Of-A-Good-Thing-Is-Wonderful SCHEDULE, which calls for careful planning (“If I go to see X, then I have to miss part of Y, but it puts me in a good place to be right up front for Z.  Anyone have a Tylenol?”) — with four or five sessions going on at the same time.

And most important — with a Sidney Catlett drum roll or a Vic Berton tympani flourish — the GET TICKETS NOW page.

I try to hold down the didactic tendencies that four decades of standing in front of sleepy (good-natured) young men and women have solidified, but I hope readers will permit me this basic logic exercise.  Festivals where people buy tickets last forever.  Festivals where people don’t vanish.  And then there is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth — very hard on the neighbors and harder on the dental work.  I think of the California festivals that have moved into The Great Memory even in my short acquaintanceship with this state.

(Or, as William Carlos Williams — or was it Philip Larkin? — wrote: “Want it to stay?  Do not delay.”)

So I hope to see throngs of friends and even strangers at the Jazz Bash by the Bay.  Anything that makes live jazz in profusion go on is a good thing.

P.S.  Need more evidence?  Go to YouTube and type in “Dixieland Monterey,” or “Jazz Bash by the Bay,” or the name of your favorite artist.  I, Rae Ann Berry, and Tom Warner, among others, have created many videos — enough to while away the hours in the most energized ways.  Proof!

May your happiness increase!

THE JAZZ BOOKSHELF: “JAZZ BEAT: NOTES ON CLASSIC JAZZ” and “MR. B”

A quarter-century ago, in actual bookstores, I could find shelves devoted to books on jazz.  That reassuring sight still exists (I saw it in the Strand in New York last week) but the great era of print publishing is, understandably, over. Thus it’s always a pleasure to encounter new books on jazz, and the two below are quite different but will both reward readers.

Jazz-Beat-review--195x300

JAZZ BEAT: NOTES ON CLASSIC JAZZ, by Lew Shaw (AZtold Publishing) is a very amiable collection of profiles written by an admiring, long-time fan and former sportswriter.

What makes these brief affectionate portraits different from the norm is that all (except one) the musicians in this book are living.  Not all of them are stars, but they have devoted followings — from the youthful Jonathan “Jazz” Russell, Pete and Will Anderson, Josh Duffee, Michael Kaeshammer, Ben Polcer, Molly Ryan, Bria Skonberg, Andy Schumm, Stephanie Trick, to the veterans Bill Allred, Jim Cullum, Bob Draga, Yve Evans, Chet Jeager, Flip Oakes, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Mike Vax, Pat Yankee, and Ed Polcer — the book’s inspiration, whose picture is on the cover.

Shaw also profiles other regulars on the festival circuit, Tom Rigney, the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band, the Natural Gas Jazz Band, the New Black Eagles, Igor’s Jazz Cowboys.

His emphasis is on musicians exploring older jazz forms and repertoire, but the book is happily free from ideological bickering (with one exception, and the words aren’t the author’s*.  The book is comfortable and easy: I sense that the musicians are delighted to find someone sympathetic, interested, willing to get the facts right for publication.

I was pleased to find a number of my jazz friends and heroes profiled, among them Clint Baker, Kevin Dorn, Banu Gibson, Nicki Parrott, Carl Sonny Leyland, Randy Reinhart, Hal Smith, Rossano Sportiello, and the late Mat Domber.  I know I’ve left several people off this list, but readers will have fun seeing some of their favorites here.

Shaw’s method is simple: he establishes the musician’s place in the world of contemporary traditional jazz, constructs a brief biography — a story rather than a collection of dates and a listing of names and places.  Some comments from a writer or blogger offer different insights (I’m even quoted here a few times) and the musician speaks for him or herself.  The result is a fast-moving collection of short pieces (somewhere between journalistic features and extensive liner notes) that capture their subjects’ personalities in only a few pages.

Shaw is frankly admiring — from a literate fan’s perspective.  For instance (I picked this at random), the opening of his piece on Bob Draga: “Clarinetist Bob Draga is considered the consummate entertainer, having mastered the art of pleasing an audience with musical talent, classy appearance and entertaining repartee.”  That’s Bob, to the life.

One particularly moving episode in this book is the profile of drummer Joe Ascione — and his life with multiple sclerosis since 1997.  If Shaw had done nothing but allow Joe to speak for himself, JAZZ BEAT would still be well worth reading. Many fans come up to musicians at gigs, concerts, and festivals, and ask questions; it is reassuring to see that Lew Shaw has willingly shared his energies and research with us.  The 211-page book is nicely produced with many black-and-white photographs, and copies can be ordered here.

*Chet Jaeger, of the Night Blooming Jazzmen, told Shaw about playing in a Disneyland marching band when Dizzy Gillespie was also performing there, and his reaction: “I decided I would attend and try to learn something about modern jazz, but I gave up after a few numbers.  I always say that when I hit a bad note, everyone knows it’s a bad note. When Miles Davis hits a bad note, people will say, ‘Isn’t that creative.'”

MISTER B

Cary Ginell, author of a fine book on the Jazz Man Record Shop (reviewed here) and a rewarding biography of Cannonball Adderley (here) has produced another first-rate book in the same series: MR. B: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BILLY ECKSTINE (Hal Leonard, 228+ pages).  Ginell may turn out to be this generation’s model for jazz biography, for he doesn’t indulge in pathobiography (chronicling every time his subject is supposed to have left no tip for a waitperson or some other example of bad behavior) and he isn’t a secret Destroyer (appearing to write admiringly of the subject then deflating the Hero(ine) chapter after chapter).

His books are tidy, graceful, compact affairs — full of stories but never digressive, sticking to chronology but never mechanical.

Eckstine has been treated gingerly by the jazz community: yes, he was Earl Hines’ band vocalist, bringing the blues to a larger audience with JELLY, JELLY, then someone given credit for his “legendary” band featuring Dizzy, Bird, Fats Navarro, Art Blakey, and others . . . but once Eckstine comes to even greater prominence as an African-American balladeer (think of I APOLOGIZE), the jazz audience loses interest and the naughty word “commercialism” enters the dialogue.

Ginell doesn’t over-compensate, and he — unlike Mister B — doesn’t apologize, but he makes a serious case for Eckstine being one of the important figures in the slow struggle for White Americans to respect people of color.

One of Eckstine’s sons remembered, “Until the day he died, whenever he ordered a sandwich, he always separated the two pieces of bread and gently ran his fingers over the meat, because on a number of occasions while touring the South, they would send the band boy. . . to pick up food from a white restaurant. When they got the sandwiches, they would discover finely ground glass, or vermin feces mixed in with the tuna, chicken, egg, or potato salad.”  We also learn about the repercussions of a LIFE magazine photograph where Eckstine was captured amidst young White female fans — a horrifying example of racist attitudes in 1950. Stories such as that are invaluable, and make a book both readable and memorable, no matter who its subject might be.

The band business was difficult even when the enemy wasn’t trying to poison you so directly; Ed Eckstein also recalled that the critic Leonard Feather subtly attacked his father’s band because Eckstine refused to record Feather’s compositions.  Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie created a parody — sung to the tune STORMY WEATHER, with these lyrics:

I know why, we can’t get a gig on Friday night, / Leonard Feather / Keeps on makin’ it hard for me to keep this band together, / Talkin’ shit about us all the time . . .  

We learn about the relationship between June Eckstine and the promising young Swedish clarinetist Stan Hasselgard; we learn of Eckstine’s close friendship with Dr. King, his devotion to his fans, his generosities.  And as for Eckstine’s apparent “selling-out,” he had this to say, “Some creeps said I ‘forsook’ jazz in order to be commercial. So I saw one of these creeps, a jazz critic, and I said, ‘What are you, mad at me because I want to take care of my family?  Is that what pisses you off? You want me to end up in a goddamn hotel room with a bottle of gin in my pocket and a needle in my arm, and let them discover me laying there? Then I’ll be immortal, I guess, to you . . . It ain’t going to work that way with me, man. I want to take care of my family and give them the things that I think they deserve.'”

And we learn that Eckstine’s last word was “Basie,” which should go some distance in supporting his deep feeling for jazz.

It’s an admirable book.  Although nearly everyone who worked with Eckstine is dead, Ginell has had the cooperation of the singer’s family and friends; he has done thorough research without allowing minutiae to overwhelm the narrative, and the book moves along at a fine 4 / 4 pace.  With rare photographs, as well.

Ginell’s work — and this series in general — is very fine, and these books fill needed spaces in jazz history.  Who’s next?

May your happiness increase!

HOT THANKSGIVING: SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 27 – December 1, 2013)

“Thanksgiving” is a manufactured holiday.  In this century, you can have roast turkey whenever you like, and any dish with marshmallows should be eyed skeptically.

But being thankful among friends and fine jazz intensifies the pleasure.  It’s gratitude in swing.  One particularly nifty place to have this experience is at the San Diego Jazz Fest (once known as the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival — accurate but unwieldy) which is taking place this year between November 27 and December 1.

Many of my heroes and friends will be there!

Clint Baker, working hard at play, in the moment.

Clint Baker, working hard at play, in the moment.

How about Ray Skjelbred, Katie Cavera, John Gill, Marty Eggers, the Reynolds Brothers, Grand Dominion, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Kevin Dorn, Jeff Hamilton, Leon Oakley, Chris Tyle, Tom Bartlett, Orange Kellin, Conal Fowkes, Bob Schulz, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Glenn Crytzer, Bob Draga, and many others.  Because I know I’ve left out many favorites, be sure to visit here and check out the schedule.

San Diego presents so many choices that it will require some advance planning — seven venues, big and small, offering music almost simultaneously.  (One must choose: “Do I stay in one spot and take what’s offered me or do I prance from place to place in search of Elysian sounds?”  It’s not an easy choice.)

The festival offers a wide variety of swinging sounds — from ragtime and banjo sing-alongs (think George M. Cohan and SHINE ON HARVEST MOON) to “hot jazz,” “Dixieland,” “boogie woogie,” “blues,” “gypsy jazz,” “swing dance,” and other, less classifiable experiences.  And there are many special sets: clarinet extravaganzas, piano duets (Paolo and Stephanie, a special treat), and a Battle of the Bands between Glenn Crytzer’s Savoy Seven and Stompy Jones (the latter featuring John Cocuzzi as well).  Second Line parades, dance classes, tributes to Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, and Bob Scobey.

It won’t sway anyone who isn’t already interested, but the Beloved and I will be there.

Five-day badges are only $105: details here.  And the rooms at the Town and Country Convention Center are surely comfortable.  I’ve even learned, after three years of practice, how to get back to my room after the last set.  Good jazz sharpens one’s navigational skills!

Here’s a song that might be the festival’s theme song — in a wonderfully sweet performance from the 2012 Fest:

So I suggest, meaning no offense to your sweet-natured relatives, that you tell them you will be available for dinner and anecdotage any weekend of the year except this one.  Walk, drive, fly, hitch to San Diego for Thanksgiving! (And late November there is positively balmy . . . wool sweaters not needed.)

And as a postscript: if you were to search JAZZ LIVES by entering the words “San Diego” in the appropriate box, you would find more hot jazz videos than you could watch in a day and a night . . . evidence of the riches that have been offered and will go on, thanks to the musicians, to Paul Daspit, and to the enthusiastic volunteers and staff (including the enthusiastic Jim McNaughton).  San Diego Joys!

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES ALL STARS at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 24, 2012)

Let me be candid.  This band impressed and moved me so much in person, and the videos continue to make me very happy — “tonation and phrasing” carried to the very apex of swinging beauty.

They are Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Hal Smith, drums — all recorded at the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival (this session on November 24, 2013).  This music emphasized the truth of this post’s title, I am positive.

I CRIED FOR YOU:

IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD:

TOGETHER:

WABASH BLUES:

IT’S BEEN SO LONG:

IF I HAD YOU:

LENA, THE QUEEN OF PALESTEENA:

SPAIN:

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?:

And, for the near future — the 34th Festival (now called The San Diego Jazz Festival) will take place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, with music by Bob Schulz, Ray Skjelbred, Glenn Crytzer, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Reynolds Brothers, High Sierra, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Jason Wanner, Bob Draga, Carl Sonny Leyland, Grand Dominion, Chloe Feoranzo, and much more.  For information, visit here.

May your happiness increase.

MIGHTY GOOD at MONTEREY 2013 / THE CASE OF THE YEARNING DAMSELS

I am back home and back at the computer one day after the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or Dixieland Monterey for those who like alternatives): it was quite fine on many levels.  I didn’t video quite as much as I have done in past years, but this was because I had made a conscious decision to behave with greater rationality . . . rather than seeing how many sets I could cram into the weekend and arriving home with a cold or a cough that would take two weeks to shake off.  But there will be videos, I promise.

I heard splendid music from Carl Sonny Leyland in a solo set full of his originals; I encountered Ivory and Gold for the first time, although I have known Jeff and Anne Barnhart — wonderful variety of sounds; their characteristic wit; a great presentation.  The Allan Vache – John Cocuzzi – John Sheridan – Paul Keller – Ed Metz group rocked (a highlight was an extended IN A MELLOTONE); the splendid singer Dawn Lambeth appeared with a number of bands and made us feel better and better as she sang; Marc Caparone appeared as a guest star with High Sierra — his teamwork with Bryan Shaw is astonishing; Jim Fryer had a rare and delightful solo set; the Reynolds Brothers with Clint Baker caused seismic shifts of the most rewarding kind.  Howard Miyata was crowned Musician of the Year 2013 in a ceremony both goofy and touching, and his nephews Gordon, Justin, and Brandon swung out with the noble help of Katie Cavera and Danny Coots.

And I know other attendees had their own version of an exquisite weekend while listening to all the other bands and soloists on the program.

Did you miss it?  Were you being wisely frugal?  Did it pass you by? Don’t despair: a 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay is solidly in the works, with these artists and more — Becky Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Eddie Erickson, Bob Draga, the Au Brothers, High Sierra, Bob Schulz’ Frisco Jazz Band, Danny Coots, Phil Flanigan, Stephanie Trick, Sue Kroninger, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Crown Syncopators, and more.  (And without being too didactic, I will point out that these enterprises rely on your tangible support — financial / physical — or they evaporate.  Look around for the sad evidence.)

It will be held March 7-8-9, 2014.  You may call 831.675.0298 or visit here for more information.  I will provide updates as I know them.

On to a related subject.  You are encountering JAZZ LIVES through a computer, an iPad, a phone or some other electronic gizmo.  And probably you think nothing of it.  But for other members of the jazz community, this is a terrifying kind of esoterica.

I met several charming ladies of a certain age (one doesn’t ask) at the Bash who told me that they were pining away for want of gallant male swains with whom to dance.  In each case, the ladies had been happily married for a long time; their husbands had died.  And unattached men seem not only fragile but in short supply.  So — if you are a single fellow out there, with or without two-tone shoes, and you can dance, there are willing partners a-plenty at these festivals.

The second part of my thinking goes back to our easy reliance on technology.  Since I have had a life-changing experience on Craigslist (of the best sort), I said to each of the damsels, “Do you have a computer?”  No.  One had a computer but her son used it and she had no idea how to on her own.  In each case, it was as if I had asked, “Do you know how to speak Sanskrit?”  I was all ready to say, “I know there are music-loving men of your generation who would be happy to dance with you — you could go to STRICTLY PLATONIC or ACTIVITY PARTNERS (whatever it is now called) on Craigslist — and gratifying things would happen.” But no.

So, I propose this as a generous act for a segment of the JAZZ LIVES readership. If you know someone, Auntie or Grandma or the Lady Two Houses Down, and she loves to dance . . . either help her out on your computer OR show her how to operate one.  I think this would be an act of deep swinging charity.  I know that people say, “Oh, no!  I don’t go on the computer!  I could get killed!  I could get my identity stolen!”  These fears have some basis in reality, I admit . . . but going to your grave without a partner is, to me, a sorrowful idea.

May your happiness increase.

“SWING THAT MUSIC”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 23, 2012)

The second set by this glorious band at the 2012 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Fest . . . worth the trip across the country!  And SWING THAT MUSIC is no idle declaration: they know it; they do it.

That’s Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Hal Smith, drums.  Condon meets Bobcats meets Wilson meets Basie meets bliss.

ALL BY MYSELF:

TISHOMINGO BLUES:

WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

SINGIN’ THE BLUES:

ALICE BLUE GOWN:

SI TU VOIS MA MERE:

I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY:

NEW ORLEANS:

SWING THAT MUSIC:

And to those of you in thrall to a more dramatic band, louder, faster, more jolly, with more special effects . . . I know taste is subjective, and I don’t expect to woo you away from the bands you love.  But I hope everyone can take a few minutes to sit down calmly, leave the relentless multitasking aside for a bit, and deeply listen to this group.  I think you will go away enriched, surprised, glowing.

My experience of 2012 is personal and thus limited . . . but I came to San Diego not feeling all that well and getting worse as the weekend progressed.  I survived thanks to the sweet-natured staff at the hotel and the proximity of a CVS — but what kept me from giving up, lying face down on my bed until Sunday afternoon, was the thought that this band would be playing, and that I needed to be there — to hear it for myself, to capture it for you.  And that’s no stage joke.

And here are some coming attractions — music to anticipate with pleasure at the 2013 San Diego cornucopia of sounds: the most recent list of artists invited to perform there:

If you are averse to clicking, I can tell you that I see Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Bob Schulz, High Sierra, Dave Bennett, Carl Sonny Leyland, Chloe Feoranzo,  Bob Draga, Glenn Crytzer, Grand Dominion, Jason Wanner . . . . and I know more swinging surprises are in store.

May your happiness increase.

“OLD-FASHIONED LOVE”: CHLOE FEORANZO, STEPHANIE TRICK, JOHN REYNOLDS, KATIE CAVERA at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 23, 2012)

Gender-neutral, cross-generational, child-friendly, organic, locally sourced, gluten-free, and hot: Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet); Stephanie Trick (piano); Katie Cavera (string bass); John Reynolds (guitar).  Recorded on November 23, 2012, at the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Fest. . . !

OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

CHINA BOY:

That’s the recent past.  How about a hint of what is expected for Thanksgiving 2013 in San Diego?  Here’s something to consider . . . with eagerness and old-fashioned love — the most recent list of artists invited to perform there:

If you are averse to clicking, I can tell you that I see Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Bob Schulz, High Sierra, Dave Bennett, Carl Sonny Leyland, Chloe Feoranzo,  Bob Draga, Glenn Crytzer, Grand Dominion, Jason Wanner . . . . and I know more swinging surprises are in store.

May your happiness increase.

FEEL LIKE A (JAZZ) BASH? (MARCH 1-2-3, 2013, MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA)

The music doesn’t start for another ten days, give or take — but we’re excited about the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or you can call it Dixieland Monterey . . . call it what you will as long as you support it by your presence!).

The Beloved and I will be there for as much of it as possible.  The music begins on Thursday night (Feb. 28, if my dates are right) with a special benefit concert by “We3” — Jeff Barnhart, Danny Coots, and Bob Draga — and runs like an express train until Sunday, March 3, late in the afternoon.

Here‘s the schedule.  And although my counting skills are imperfect, I see 149 or so sets in that weekend — because of simultaneous action in a variety of rooms.  What this means to me: Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Jeff Barnhart, Anne Barhart, Bryan Shaw, Howard Miyata, John Reynolds, Clint Baker, Ralf Reynolds, Katie Cavera, Carl Sonny Leyland, Banu Gibson, John Sheridan, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Ed Metz, Paul Keller, Sue Kroninger, Eddie Erickson, Chris Calabrese, Jim Fryer, Danny Coots, Jeff Hamilton, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Gordon Au, Justin Au, Brandon Au, David Boeddinghaus, Jason Wanner, Ray Templin . . . and you can add your own favorites, heroes, heroines, and heartthrobs.

Here‘s ticket information.  Few people I know are moved to take positive action because of fear and dread, but the evidence speaks for itself: many jazz festivals have vanished or morphed unrecognizably before vanishing: join us at the Jazz Bash by the Bay!

And for those readers who say, “I’m not convinced.  I need evidence before I get in the car, find someone to walk the dog, and unstrap my wallet,” will this do?  Recorded on March 2, 2012 — something to provoke SMILES:

May your happiness increase. 

THE JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY IS COMING! (March 1-3, 2013)

I’m happy, excited, bewildered, and reaching for the oaktag and the colored Sharpies.  No arts and crafts project is on the horizon, but Dixieland Monterey’s JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY has just published its 2013 schedule.  This moment is always a combination of elation and puzzlement.  “Are all my favorite bands playing or am I dreaming?” to quote a late-Thirties record.  Yes, there’s John Sheridan and Jeff Barnhart, Carl Sonny Leyland and the Au Brothers, High Sierra, The Reynolds Brothers, David Boeddinghaus, Banu Gibson, Katie Cavera, Marc Caparone, Eddie Erickson, Sue Kroninger, Danny Coots, Howard Miyata, Pieter Meijers, Allan Vache, Bob Draga, Ivory and Gold, Jim Fryer, Titan Hot Seven, John Cocuzzi, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Ivory and Gold, Frederick Hodges, We 3, Jerry Krahn, Ed Metz, Paul Keller, and more . . .

That’s wonderful.  Then the headache starts to creep up my neck.  “All right.  I have to see X but Y is playing at the same time, and Z starts a half-hour later.  Where shall I go?”

We should all have such problems.  Plot out your perfect weekend — including dance lessons and a Thursday-night concert by We 3 (Barnhart, Coots, Draga) to kick things off properly.

Here is the schedule.

Try it for yourself.  You have seven weeks to calculate the possibilities that will bring the most joy.  But you can do it!

And I’ll see you in the Portola Room, or the De Anza, or the Bonsai . . . look for me and say hello!

May your happiness increase. 

YOU WON’T NEED A SPREADSHEET TO HAVE FUN AT THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 25-28, 2012)

My friend Nancy Doran Giffin just sent me this early-birthday gift — the schedule for the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival.  I’ll be there.  Will you?  I can see myself racing around from sets:  the Reynolds Brothers, Rebecca Kilgore Trio, Bob Draga, Ray Templin, Clint Baker, Tofu Cavera, Uptown Lowdown, Dave Bennett, Allan Vache, Russ Phillips, John Cocuzzi, Uptown Lowdown, Stephanie Trick, Dan Barrett, Rossano Sportiello, Jennifer Leitham, Big Mama Sue, the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band, the New Black Eagles, Eddie Erickson, Molly Ryan, Bob Ringwald, Ray Templin, Vince Bartels . . . and that’s only about twenty percent of what’s on the program.

Since I am an old-fashioned type (I remember life before the computer), I will eventually give myself the sumptuous pleasure of printing out these pages and marking out my musical peregrinations with a yellow highlighter so that I don’t miss an exalted note.  But I’ve looked at this cornucopia for a long time, basking in anticipation of the wonders we will hear . . .

The festival schedule is posted and arranged by day.  Anyone can go to each day and do a “Find” for a particular name, then keep clicking “Next” to see all the places they are listed on that page.

Try it here.  Go ahead, knock yourselves out!

May your happiness increase.

MERRIE MELODIES at MONTEREY 2012: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS with BOB DRAGA (March 2, 2012)

The Reynolds Brothers are always SHOW-READY.  No question. 

And they began the 2012 Jazz Bash By The Bay with a riotous set — including clarinetist and master of witty repartee Bob Draga.  That’s cornet man Marc Caparone, string bassist / charming singer Katie Cavera, Brother Ralf on the washboard, and Brother John on the guitar, vocal, and whistle.  A good time was had by all, even though it was midafternoon, rather early for hot jazz. 

They began with the Gershwin call-to-musical-arms, STRIKE UP THE BAND:

What are the THREE LITTLE WORDS?  Of course, I LOVE YOU comes in first, but I would make a case for THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS.  I’m waiting for Congress to legislate that one into law:

Bob Draga probably doesn’t know my Aunt Ida, but the telepathic vectors in the cosmos suggested to him that it would be nice to play IDA, SWEET AS APPLE CIDER.  It was and is!

Katie Cavera is full of surprises.  Ask anyone!  And the surprise she pulled out of her Show-Ready bag of tricks was the sweet and mildly naughty 1932 OH, IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN.  Bob sat this one out; perhaps he went to play cards?

Professor Ralf wants the washboard to be returned to its former glory, rightly so.  He accomplishes this by playing it with a swing, but also by reminding us all of the music that it once propelled — here, Tiny Parham’s WASHBOARD WIGGLES:

John Reynolds is a magnificently swinging singer, sweet and hilarious at the same time.  I never tire of his TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:

And another surprise — I can’t watch the Disney films, but their music is priceless and memorable.  If I began my day with WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK, I would arrive at my office with a big smile.  You try it and report back:

A powerful answer to darkness in the universe! 

May your happiness increase.

ON THE WAY / TO MONTEREY / JAZZ BY THE BAY

Many JAZZ LIVES readers aren’t close enough to California to hear the siren song of Hot Jazz that will be emanating from the 2012 Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey.

And carry-on rules are stringent, so I can’t establish a raffle for the most enthusiastic / lightest reader to be smuggled aboard my JetBlue flight.  Anyway, the Beloved has first dibs — although being a woman of discernment and breeding, she would require a seat.

But it’s not too late to remind, to urge you all to put aside the possibly mundane plans for the coming weekend and choose a Jazz Holiday.  Ask yourself, “Would Turk Murphy spend his weekend taking the car in for an oil change?”  Would Big Sid Catlett take Fluffy to the groomer’s instead of playing the drums?”  “What would Lee Wiley do?”  “Would George Lewis spend his time putting up the new curtains for spring?”  If none of these names resonate with you as a personal role model, please feel free to fill in the blank until you come up with the proper answer: “Given the chance, ______________ would be heading for Monterey.”

Having arrived at this revelation, come join me and hear the Reynolds Brothers with Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, and Katie Cavera; the Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band with Doug Finke, Kim Cusack, Jim Maihack, Scott Anthony, Ray Skjelbred, and Hal Smith; Bob Draga; Eddie Erickson; the Vache-Cocuzzi Swing All-Stars with John Sheridan; Carl Sonny Leyland; the Titan Hot Seven; High Sierra with Bryan Shaw, Pieter Meijers, Howard Miyata; Jeff and Anne Barnhart; Jerry Krahn; Sue Kroninger; Chris Calabrese; Jason Wanner; Marty Eggers, Virginia Tichenor; Royal Society Jazz Orchestra; Yve Evans; Gonzalo Bergara; a host of youth bands.  And more.  Here’s the link to the schedule.  Feast your eyes, as they used to say.

I don’t want to be grim, but festivals are quietly closing up all around us — not only in California.  Better to create a pleasant surprise for this next weekend than to regret indefinitely into the future.  And that’s no stage joke.

See you there!

JAZZ PARADE AT PISMO (October 2011) with the AU BROTHERS JAZZ BAND and GUESTS

The family that plays together . . . creates beautiful music.  Here are some more performances by the Au Brothers Jazz Band from their October 28, 2011, appearance at the Pismo Beach “Jazz Jubilee by the Sea”: for this occasion, the band was Gordon Au, trumpet; Justin Au, trumpet; Brandon Au, trombone / English baritone; Howard Miyata, tuba.  (That’s “Uncle How” to those in the know.)  The friends were Katie Cavera, banjo / guitar; Danny Coots, drums — with a few added surprises.

Let’s start with Gordon’s own PISMO BEACH PARADE — a rollicking march which keeps its flavor no matter if it’s performed far from Pismo — say in Brooklyn, New York:

The Brothers welcomed the hot pianist Jeff Barnhart for a little meteorology in PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — sweetly expounded by Uncle How:

I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU was an occasion to welcome other playful folks to the stand: Bob Draga and Peter Meijers, clarinet; Jeff Beaumont, alto sax — a reed section to match the Au /  Miyata brass:

Two satires follow — a slightly modified version of ROCKIN’ CHAIR (“Fetch me that ginseng,” is what I believe we hear):

and I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER, its Thirties lyrics updated and reconfigured:

Here’s a groovy SHE’S CRYING FOR ME — with an unidentified young washboardist, stage right, in dialogue with Gordon:

In memory of the Eddie Condon Town Hall concerts, a key-changing OLE MISS:

Although this is a thoroughly mischievous band, they play KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW (beginning with the tender verse). And, as for the vocal, it’s Crosby, Columbo, and Miyata:

Let’s conclude with a mellow Fiesta for Brass on the theme of STARDUST:

I doubt that I will ever organize a jazz festival in this life — but this band seems supremely good music and good value.  Is anyone listening?

All these nice videos were created by Gene Mondro: thanks and applause to Gene!  The comings and goings of the Au Brothers are ly documented here on “Dolphinhunter,” their YouTube channel.

ONCE AGAIN, IT HAPPENS IN MONTEREY — the 2012 JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY is COMING!

I’m a late-adopter but a deep convert to California jazz.  My first exposure to it in the flesh took place a year ago at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, and — since tempus fugit at an alarming rate, the 2012 edition will be here in two months.  Here’s a link to the site:

Sue Kroninger, who not only runs the show but also sings and plays the washboard, tells me, “The theme of the year is variety, diversity, mix and match.  We’ve got a whole bunch of exciting and unexpected pairings from within the core bands and it is my fondest wish that guests will have a tough time deciding among all the choices.”

I know this is true from my one experience last year: I had a long session with the schedule and a highlighter, thinking, “I want to go here, but if I do that, I can’t go there.”  We should all have such problems.

Between 11:30 AM Friday, March 2, and late afternoon Sunday, March 4, you’ll have more than one hundred and sixty sets to choose from, from solo piano to the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, and dance lessons from Dave & Linda Dance Company.

Some of the other players and bands are John Sheridan, Katie Cavera, Eddie Erickson, Bob Draga, Hal Smith, Bill Allred, Doug Finke, Bob Schulz and his Frisco Jazz Band, Take Two, Old Friends, Reynolds Brothers, High Sierra, Marc Caparone, Hal Smith, Carl Sonny Leyland, Josh Colazzo,  Mary Eggers, Virginia Tichenor, Titan Hot Seven, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Ed Metz, Side Street Strutters, The Barehanded Wolfchokers, Yve Evans, Gonzalo Bergara, Jeff Barnhart, Anne Barnhart, Jerry Krahn, Tom Hook, Bill Dendle, Shelley Burns, Westy Westenhofer, Jason Wanner, Howard Miyata, Bryan Shaw, Mark Allen Jones, Frederick Hodges, Crown Syncopators Ragtime Trio, Chris Calabrese, Dave Gannett, the Rhythm Hounds, Grant Somerville, Reedley River Rats, Crazy Eights, Bob Phillips, George Young, Saxaphobia, Danny Coots (Musician of the Year at the festival, with good reason), sets of gospel music for Sunday, tributes to Bix, Nat Cole, Fats Waller, Harold Arlen, the washboard, Scobey and Clancy . . . duo-piano sets, lots of solo and group ragtime, and many surprises, as people sit in and have a good time, on and off the bandstand.  Most sets run an hour, giving us leisurely mini-concerts.

To purchase tickets, visit here.

Children under 12 are admitted free with an adult, as are high school students with an ID.  Discounted tickets are also available for college students, so if you have a music major in the house or just someone glued to his or her iPod oriPhone, the discounted tickets make a meaningful gift — perhaps the beginnings of a conversion experience.

Dear grandparents who lament that the young people “aren’t coming to hear our kind of music”: now’s the time to take steps to reverse the trend!  Jazz, like charity, begins at home.

Here’s some vivid evidence from 2011.  First, A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON, featuring Marc Caparone, Bryan Shaw, Howard Miyata with High Sierra:

And another kind of romantic serenade, SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA by the Reynolds Brothers:

And 2012 promises even more!  So — to refer back to a song performed by Clarence Williams around 1933 — I hope you’ll come over and say “Hello”!  I’ll be juggling a video camera and a notebook. And I’ll be happy as the day is long.

“ROYAL GARDEN BLUES”: A GRAND FINALE: SWEET AND HOT 2011

Everyone on stage!

This ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, a hilarious jazz extravaganza, closed the festivites at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival.  You’ll have to navigate the solo order yourself, but the participants (more or less) include the guiding genius of festival, Wally Holmes.  Then you’ll encounter John Sheridan, piano; Allan Vache, Bob Draga, clarinet; Richard Simon, bass; Connie Jones, cornet, Jennifer Leitham, Nedra Wheeler, bass; Jim Galloway, reeds; Ed Polcer, Corey Gemme, Randy Reinhart, cornet; Tim Laughlin, Dan Levinson, reeds; Russ Phillips, John Allred, Dan Barrett, trombones; Mark Shane, Johnny Varro, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Dick Shanahan, Frank DiVito, drums . . . and perhaps some unidentified flying swingers in the background as well. 

When the applause had died down, I heard a woman near me say happily, “Boy, that was fun!”  Absolutely right, ma’am.  I never thought I would want to spend Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles, but I’ve already (mentally) marked my 2012 calendar.  You come, too.

REBECCA AMIDST THE REEDS at SWEET AND HOT 2011

I’ve seen the peerless singer Rebecca Kilgore perform live for the past seven years, and have always marveled how easily she made herself — and everyone else — comfortable in ad hoc situations.  And her easy confidence radiates to the other musicians; we in the audience feel it, too.  No one sits tensely on the edge of a seat when Becky takes the mike to sing: we know that something good, something surprising and persuasive, is coming.

It certainly happened at her closing set of the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, which took place on Sunday, September 5, 2011.  Someone had the interesting idea of splitting the RK4 (that’s the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet, the group formerly known as BED) into two.  In one room, Dan Barrett and Joel Forbes improvised alongside pianist Chris Dawson, reedman Jim Galloway, and drummer Frank DiVito.  I’m sure that was a delight.  Down the hall, Becky found herself surrounded by clarinets — Bob Draga and Chloe Feoranzo, with comrade Eddie Erickson on the stand and the irreplaceable pianist / singer Mark Shane.

What resulted was superb, and you can see for yourself.

Becky began with a song — of no great lyrical depth but immensely memorable — that I’d never heard her sing before, THE FLAT FOOT FLOOGIE (which segued into a later bit of pop drollery, SHOO FLY PIE AND APPLE PAN DOWDY, known only to scholars of dance-band arcana).  But she and the band floated on air, with our without a floy floy:

Another new-old song, YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS, was more lyrically dense but equally rewarding:

Becky then became a fine rhythm guitarist, while the clarinetists, Mark, and Eddie capered around in BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN at a nice tempo:

Becky teased us and the audience about Eddie Erickson’s feature, WHAT’LL I DO? as a genuine weeper, but at heart she’s right — what a lovely performance of that beautiful song, with Eddie’s voice full of shadings that change from word to word:

Usually pianists as splendidly gifted as Mark Shane choose to wow the crowd with a stride firecracker for a feature — but our Mr. Shane is a wily programmer, and he called the 2:19 BLUES (or MAMIE’S BLUES) for his star turn, which led to a deep-blue seven minute performance of which Mr. Morton would (“no doubt”) have approved:

In response to an audience member’s request, Becky tenderly sang that Swing Era carpe diem,  A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY, in duet with Mark — the result touching without being sentimental:

And the whole group re-assembled so that Becky could lead them out with a hymn to self-love in the form of snail-mail: I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER:

What grace!  Thanks to Becky and the ensemble, and special thanks to the Canadian Board of Film for its gracious assistance.  This posting was made possible by a grant from the Frida Foundation.

P.S.  While I was writing this post, I took a phone call from my friend Destiny Sneath and explained what I was doing.  “You won’t believe it,” I said.  And — she knows the right thing to say — Destiny replied, “I can’t wait!”  This one’s for you, Destiny — and for all of us who admire our Miss Kilgore.