Tag Archives: Bob Draga

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.

UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and BOB DRAGA at SWEET AND HOT 2011

The Reynolds Brothers bring it in a gratifying hot, witty way.  More from these Swing Masters and clarinetist Bob Draga, recorded outdoors at “Rampart Street” at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival.  (“Rampart Street” is something of a joke born of necessity: sharp-eyed viewers will see that the imagined ceiling of this outdoors stage is a highway ramp.) 

For this set, the Brothers were Ralf (washboard, vocal); John (guitar, banjo, vocal, whistling); Marc Caparone (cornet), Katie Cavera (string bass, vocal); Larry Wright (alto sax, ocarina), with the nimble lines of Bob Draga weaving in and out.

Is there anything finer than DINAH?

The band that has Katie Cavera in it is doubly or triply gifted — instrumentally and vocally, as she demonstrates on DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?

Nothing but BLUE SKIES do I see:

Perhaps because the odd stage, John came up with OUT OF NOWHERE for his homage to Harry Lillis Crosby:

Translate the lyrics to the Fields-McHugh DIGA DIGA DOO without being politically incorrect and win a prize — or just get swept along by the fine momentum here:

SADIE GREEN (The Vamp of New Orleans) . . . was a hot mama, and this tune is a heated improvisation in her honor — half vaudeville, half rocking jazz:

I have a special fondness for OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN — one of those 1931 songs designed to make the homeless and unemployed feel that their lot was endurable . . . but the sentiments it espouses (a love of Nature, freedom from materialism, and a Thoreau-like simplicity mixed with a hip socialism) touch a responsive chord, as do the Brothers in this performance:

I’m as happy as I can be (even though my heart feels a chill) when the Reynolds Brothers SWING THAT MUSIC.  And Marc’s singing is just grand:

Yeah, man!

P.S.  A reader wrote in, “I love the Reynolds Brothers, but why does the one with the washboard [that’s Ralf] keep blowing that whistle?”  Youth wants to know: Ralf blows that whistle when a member of the band creates a particularly hoary “quotation” from another song — it’s in the interest of fairness, a referee calling FOUL.  Now you know.

P.P.S.  Connee Boswell’s rendition of the beautifully sad song UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES should be better known, especially in perilous economic times.

THEY’RE JUST TOO MUCH!: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and FRIENDS at SWEET AND HOT (September 2, 2011)

My title comes from an unsolicited comment by a listener next to me at this set at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival.  It’s all true!

JAZZ LIVES readers will know of my admiration for the Reynolds Brothers, nurtured through videos, recordings, and encountering them in the flesh at Monterey by the Bay in March 2011).  They hit new heights in set after set at this Los Angeles music extravaganza, and I captured as much as I could.

The band began with the regulars plus one: that’s Ralf on washboard, banter, the occasional vocal, and serious moral leadership; his younger brother John on guitar, vocal, whistling, and commentaries; Marc Caparone on cornet, thermodynamics, and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and sweet singing.  Add to that mix one Larry Wright on alto saxophone, ocarina, and the occasional toy instrument . . . that would be enough for anyone.  But the guest star was the irrepressible (perhaps “unchained” would be more appropriate) clarinetist Bob Draga . . . and a figure appeared to my left early on — none other than Dan Barrett on trombone, head-arrangements-while-you-wait and riffs (no waiting); later on, pianist David Boeddinghaus came on board.

(An aside: someone said to me, “Isn’t it nice how the Reynolds Brothers invite all those musicians to join them?”  “It is nice,” I said, “but it’s the other way around: the Brothers swing so hard that everyone wants to sit in with them.”)

They began their first set with I MAY BE WRONG (both humble and incorrect):

Dan Barrett is long out of diapers, but he showed up early on in I FOUND A NEW BABY:

Katie sang and swung DOWN AMONG THE SHELTERING PALMS, a performance notable also for the impromptu duets among the sheltering front line:

Having found that new baby, it would be natural for fondness to develop into adoration — thus I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY (note sly David Boeddinghus finding his way to the piano bench, happily for us):

I knew Harry White (“Father” White in the Cab Calloway trombone section) as the composer of EVENIN’ — but we must credit him with another opus, the indescribably-titled FUTURISTIC JUNGLEISM (which is also the title of a Reynolds Brothers CD):

Telepathically, John Reynolds answered my silent request for another version of TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:

And the set closed with James P. Johnson’s ode to abandon, RUNNIN’ WILD:

When this musical exaltation was over, I said to no one in particular, “Now I can go home!” because I felt so uplifted by what I heard, a completely fulfilling musical experience.  Happily, I didn’t . . . .

P.S.  The Brothers aren’t really attired in pink suits or deep purple dreams at the start; it was a trick of the interior lighting.  And thanks to Laurie Whitlock for her generous guidance: I’ll be back next year!

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING (WILL BE WONDERFUL): SWEET AND HOT, Sept. 2011

The sentiments, slightly modified, come from Mae West (by way of Oscar Wilde, two people who knew the delights of overabundance.  But this post is about jazz, not sex, even though the words SWEET and HOT are in the title.

I have just seen the schedule for the September 2011 Sweet and Hot music extravaganza — to be held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott over Labor Day weekend.  You, too, can see it here:

http://www.sweethot.org/schedule/2011/SH_Schedule_2011.pdf

These five pages are wonderful.  I see my heroes and heroines and friends — those I’ve met and those I’ve only heard — in profusion.  There’s Chris Dawson, Connie Jones, Rebecca Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, Katie Cavera, Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, Ralf and John Reynolds, Mark Shane, Dan Levinson, Molly Ryan, Hal Smith, Clint Baker, Tim Laughlin, Randy Reinhart, Dan Barrett, John Sheridan, Joel Forbes, Chloe Feoranzo, Corey Gemme, John Allred, Howard Alden, Bob Draga, Sue Kroninger, Richard Simon, Johnny Varro, Dan Levinson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Allan Vache, Ed Polcer, Jim Galloway, Banu Gibson, Dave Koonse, Russ Phillips, Herb Jeffries, Jennifer Leitham, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys . . . . and I know I’m leaving out a dozen more.

This amplitude, this cornucopia isn’t in itself a problem.  Better to have your plate heaped high with deliciousness than have one elderly green bean to gnaw on.  The problem — if you see it as such — is in the choosing.

When scientists experimented on the subject of choice, they found that children asked to decide between three breakfast cereals did fine; children asked to choose among twelve burst into tears.

I’m in slightly better shape, especially because I never eat cold cereal.  But I wish JAZZ LIVES readers would come up with a solution to my jazz dilemma.  There’s only one of me, and when in one room the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet is swinging away, in another the Reynolds Brothers are romping, in a third it’s Jones-Clint Baker-Laughlin-Dawson-Hal Smith, in a fourth Levinson, Ryan, and Shane . . . what’s a fellow to do?

The Beloved, bless her heart, offered to take another video camera to another set . . . and I thank her for it . . . but perhaps my readers have some suggestions.

I know!  Come to Sweet and Hot and help me solve the dilemma of abundance.  By the time Labor Day weekend is over, we’ll have worked something out.  Right?

THE SWEET AND HOT CORNUCOPIA (September 2-5, 2011)

How about spending Labor Day weekend 2011 with these musicians:

Howard Alden, John Allred, Dan Barrett, Chris Calabrese, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera, Chris Dawson, Bob Draga, Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Chloe Feoranzo, Joel Forbes, Jim Galloway, Banu Gibson, Connie Jones,  Rebecca Kilgore, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys, Dave Koonse, Sue Kroninger, Tim Laughlin, Dan Levinson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Russ Phillips, Randy Reinhart, John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Molly Ryan, Mark Shane, Ed Shaughnessy, John Sheridan, Richard Simon, Hal Smith, Putter Smith, Allan Vache, Johnny Varro, Westy Westenhofer . . . and others to be announced?

It can be done!  (The Beloved and I have made our plans.)

The players and singers above will be appearing at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival, September 3-5, 2011, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.  For information about the hotel: http://www.sweethot.org/hotel.html

I am a self-confessed jazz snob, with a happily narow range (although I tell people my immersion is deep).  But many people want much more variety.  They will find it easily at Sweet and Hot, which has a broad range.

There will be The Mills Brothers – not the foursome we knew from 1936, but a group led by John Mills (son, grandson, and nephew of the original Brothers) their descendents, performing their classic hits.

Singers Ernestine Anderson and Barbara Morrison will perform, and perhaps the patriarch of 1940-1 Ellingtonia, Herb Jeffries, will be there.

A Classic Classical piano set will feature Warner Bros recording artist Yolanda Klappert, joined in a four hand-one piano extravaganza by thirteen-year old Lucas Crosby.

Those who can’t get enough of Gypsy swing will revel in the playing of the Argentinian Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.

The Cunninghams will appear for the first time, playing and singing the Great American Songbook — straight from Vegas.  Alicia and Don duet, and he plays the sax and vibes.

The irrepressible Banu Gibson will bring her band as well as an eighteen-year old trumpet player who is that is the city of New Orleans’ Junior Satchmo Ambassador.

Speaking of the future of jazz, there will be the Jazz America of 2011: a group from 11 to 18.

Cajun music from Gator Beat, four dance bands, and many special sets to be announced . . . from boogie woogie to Broadway, Oscar-winning performers and writers including Sean Callery and John Altman, as well as the Hues Corporation of Rock the Boat fame.

All of this sounds expensive, right?  I wouldn’t presume to tell JAZZ LIVES readers how to spend their savings, but I will quietly point out that someone can buy an all-events badge — covering all the music for four days straight — for $100.  Individual day badges are priced accordingly, with discounts for youth:

http://www.sweethot.org/tickets.html

Something for everyone!

LABOR DAY WEEKEND WILL BE SWEET AND HOT! (September 2-5, 2011)

To set the mood: Fletcher Henderson, 1931, vocal by Jimmy Harrison, SWEET AND HOT:

I could become oratorical — a preacher leaning over his congregation, looking over his glasses, solemnly dropping his voice for emphasis, asking, “Where will YOU spend Labor Day weekend 2011?  Where will YOU be September 2-3-4-5, 2011?”

But the Beloved and I already know the answer!

We’ll be at the Sweet and Hot Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, California.

Why?

Oh, I don’t know.  I don’t understand it myself.  There are some musicians and singers, for sure.  But only a few.  And no one you’d really know.

Here are some of the amateurs and nonentities who will be there.

Howard Alden, John Altman, Dan Barrett, Gil Bernal, Ian Bernard, Sean Callery, Chris Dawson, Frank DeVito,  Bob Draga,  Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Joel Forbes,  Jim Galloway,  Corey Gemme,  Banu Gibson, Jeff Gilbert, Rebecca Kilgore, Janet Klein, Dave Koonse, Sue Kroninger, Jennifer Leitham, Dan Levinson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Sherrie Maricle, Barbara Morrison, Roger Neumann, Russ Phillips, Randy Reinhart, the Reynolds Brothers, Molly Ryan, Mark Shane, Ed Shaughnessy, Jack Sheldon, John Sheridan, Richard Simon, Hal Smith, Putter Smith, Jonathan Stout, Allan Vache, Johnny Varro, Ed Vodicka, Pat Yankee, Barry Zweig.

And I’ve left out a whole raft of bands, players, singers, vocal groups, attractions, late-night jam sessions . . . too much to cover in one weekend for anyone.  I’ve already begun thinking of buying extra batteries for the camera and perhaps more comfortable shoes . . . ?

Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, 5855 W. Century Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90045.  Call 310-641-5700 for reservations, and be sure to ask for the Sweet & Hot Rate: $120.00 per room/ per night + tax.  For Pool Room Packages (not a remake of THE HUSTLER, but rooms overlooking the pool) call Wanda– 505-795-7299 or via email mswanda@newmexico.com.

Information and ticket sales by phone: call Laurie 909-983-0106 or tickets @sweethot.org.

For a volunteer information and application, contact Bobbye: 818-887-0120 or bobbye70@yahoo.com.

I will have more to say about this in postings to come, but I am very excited by this opportunity and wanted my readers to know right this minute. . . . !

“IT SURE SOUNDS GOOD TO ME”: A CODA from MONTEREY 2011

I miss Dixieland Monterey 2011 (the Jazz Bash by the Bay) . . . but my therapy has included visits to Rae Ann Berry’s YouTube channel (“SFRaeAnn”) where she had posted these four video performances by the Reynolds Brothers and guests.

The regulars are here: Ralf Reynolds on washboard; brother John on National guitar, whistling, and vocal; Marc Caparone on cornet; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal.  Also there are guest stars Bill Dendle on banjo and trombone; Bob Draga on clarinet; Frederick Hodges on piano.

Here’s a pretty DARKNESS ON THE DELTA, with sweet playing from Bob, a Louis-Bunny episode from Marc, and the wonderful doubling of Bill Dendle (have you ever seen a banjoist so equipped, or a trombonist?):

Then, the lovely and talented Katie Cavera steps forward to sing I’LL BET YOU TELL THAT TO ALL THE GIRLS.  (The band that can’t start swinging after John’s introductions would be a band past hope, wouldn’t it?):

A stirring SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, with Papa Marc not only playing a hot solo but then plunging right into a rocking vocal chorus, then some stomping piano from Frederick Hodges and riotous playing to conclude (Bob Draga approves from his position as an observer):

The closing-tune-to-end-all-closing-tunes, AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

SACRAMENTO, HERE I COME!: SACRAMENTO JAZZ FESTIVAL and JUBILEE 2011

The sheer numbers are impressive: over 450 sets of music planned in 24 venues with over 70 bands.  And the Sacramento Jazz organizers are not narrow in their tastes: in addition to traditional jazz, there’s blues, zydeco, and other forms of danceable music.

But for me the desire to go somewhere I’ve never been before is fueled by the jazz-lover’s carpe diem.  Inside me the sentence forms, more urgent than other impulses: “I have to go _____ because I could die never having heard _____ in person.”  The thought of my death or of someone else’s may seem morbid (especially over the Memorial Day weekend) but it is a profoundly deep motivator.

Awareness that the days dwindle down to a precious few got me on an airplane to hear and meet Bent Persson, Frans Sjostrom, Matthias Seuffert, Nick Ward, and two dozen others at Whitley Bay.

At Monterey, I met the Reynolds Brothers, Bryan Shaw, Sue Kroninger, Clint Baker, Carl Sonny Leyland, Danny Coots, Rae Ann Berry . . . as well as surprising the musicians I already knew (Dan Barrett, Joel Forbes, Becky Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, Jeff Barnhart, Marc Caparone, and Dawn Lambeth) by my presence.

At Sacramento, I will re-encounter some associates from New York end elsewhere: Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Bill Allred, Jim Fryer, Bria Skonberg, Dan Block, John Sheridan, and Kevin Dorn . . . but I’ll also finally — meet up with Hal Smith and the International Sextet.  Here’s a taste of what Anita Thomas, Kim Cusack, Clint Baker, Katie Cavera, Carl Sonny Leyland, and Hal do with THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

Then, there will be clarinetist Bob Draga, cornetists Ed Polcer and Bob Schulz, pianists Johnny Varro and David Boeddinghaus, and the wonderful singer Banu Gibson (here’s a little taste of Banu with Jon-Erik, trombonist David Sager, reedman Dan Levinson, Kevin Dorn and others):

And because not everyone who lives with or loves a jazz fancier shares his / her obsession, there’s a Bloody Mary Festival, zydeco bands including Tom Rigney and Flambeau, blues, soul, rhythm ‘n’ blues, Johnny Cash and Steely Dan tribute bands, Latin bands, “Afrobeat,” marching bands and more — how can you lose, to quote Benny Carter?

I’ll be there — Rae Ann and I will be operating video cameras and wearing PRESS badges, so we’ll be hard to miss.  And here’s more information about the all-event price, hotel rates, and the festivities.  Something happening all through the weekend!

Don’t miss this party!

THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS AND FRIENDS: DIXIELAND MONTEREY, March 4, 2011

If you’d never heard the Reynolds Brothers, you might not give them sufficient credit for being Gods of Hot Jazz.

After all — one fellow plays an amplified National steel guitar, sings, and whistles in the best Crosby manner (that’s John); his brother holds a washboard with a cymbal mounted on top, blows a referee’s whistle to signify when a musical foul has been committed, and has a fine walrus mustache (that’s Ralf).

Most times they are joined by the eternally cheerful and swinging Katie Cavera (smart hat, glowing smile, string bass, vocals) and Hot Man Supreme Marc Caparone (cornet, a wide assortment of mutes, the occasional vocal, and manifester-of-Louis).

It sounds like a truly mixed bag, and when they first appeared at the 2011 Dixieland Monterey weekend, they had the extra added attraction of clarinetist, satirist, and uninhibited man-about-town Bob Draga . . . sitting somewhere between Omer Simeon and Groucho Marx.

Here are eight hot tunes from the Golden Era, complete with odd and occasionally semi-illicit stage behavior: you’ll have to watch for it.  But do they swing!

They started with something everyone knows — LADY BE GOOD.  And it swung from the opening phrase and only got hotter:

Then, after some rodomontade, badinage, and commedia dell’arte, Bob called for HELLO, MA BABY — although from a different corner of the jazz universe, it was a success as well:

ROSETTA used to be a song that everyone played — now, it’s a rare treat.  And to hear Marc swing out on it — a la Red Allen (cornet AND vocal) — is precious:

AT SUNDOWN speaks of pastoral pleasures, and it’s so fitting to have sweet unaffected Katie sing it — one of those Walter Donaldson compositions that works beautifully at many tempos.  And the hilarious unscripted interplay is an extra bonus:

I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY celebrates Fats Waller and 1931 washboard ecstasy — John brings us in, an utterly convincing singer:

OUT OF NOWHERE was another 1931 hit for a fellow from Spokane named Crosby.  Bob finds his way cautiously through the first chorus and is secure in time for what follows:

I love THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN, but have never been able to make up my mind about it.  Is it an exultation of life without materialism, a life lived in Nature in the best Emerson / Thoreau way, or is is another Depression-era attempt to say “You lost your job and your house and your family: isn’t sleeping outdoors with nothing at all such fun?”  Comments appreciated — but it’s a great song:

SWING THAT MUSIC begins with some fascinating dialogue, worth considering closely, and eventually goes into the most unusual clarinet / string bass duet in recorded history.  Was it the “feather-nesting” Katie sang of before, or was it Bob’s locally sourced apple juice?  One never knows.  I think I did a good turn for surrealist drama by recording this for posterity:

Thank you all for helping keep LIVE MUSIC ALIVE!

HOT ISN’T FREE!  CLICK HERE TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE MUSICIANS YOU SEE IN THESE VIDEOS (ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

WHY CURSE THE DARKNESS?

It’s dark in New York.  Daylight seems to get swallowed up every day.  

What to do?

Moving away isn’t an option, and reassurances that we will make it to April seem very thin comfort.  Were I a bear or a squirrel, I could drown my sorrows by stuffing myself with acorns and go hibernate.  But acorns give me indigestion and my college frowns on professors staying home for four months.

The only thing I can do is a jubilant nose-thumbing at winter.  I’ve paid for a seat at a hot jazz extravaganza for March 2011 — DIXIELAND MONTEREY — JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY.  That’s in California, by the way.  (Look at the bright yellow of the Bash logo — that’s much better than a full-spectrum light, isn’t it?)

Dixieland Monterey will take place March 4-6, and will be held at the Portola Hotel and Spa, the Monterey Conference Center and Fisherman’s Wharf.  The Monterey waterfront, I’ve been told, is lovely — and this Bash has been presenting “Dixieland, Big Band, Swing, Ragtime, Blues, and Gypsy Jazz” for more than thirty years.  In addition to the sets by a wide variety of bands, there will be a Swing Dance Party, three afternoon Banjo Jubilees, and a Dance Marathon.

“Well, Michael, who’s going to be there?” I can hear my loyal readership clamoring — on two and four, of course.

How about this list?   

And the website notes that reduced prices will be in effect until the end of 2010.  Better to go to a jazz party than curse the darkness.  I forget: did Eleanor Roosevelt say that or was it Zutty Singleton? 

For more information, check out http://www.dixieland-monterey.com/.  I now have some fun to look forward to . . . it will keep me more cheerful through the darkest days of winter.