Tag Archives: Bob Draga

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!