No one talks during these bass solos, I assure you!
Milt Hinton, Arvell Shaw, Slam Stewart, Bob Haggart, string bass; Hank Jones, piano; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. YESTERDAYS (Arvell Shaw) / BODY AND SOUL (Slam Stewart) / BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA (Bob Haggart) / HOW HIGH THE MOON (ensemble) // “Four Basses,” Bern Jazz Festival 1983.
A precious document: four masters, having a deep friendly swinging good time.
I wish they had had a longer showcase, with more jamming, but it’s pointless to carp about what should have been . . .especially because this exists to be shared and treasured.
Bless these gentlemen, and bless the organizer of the Bern Jazz Festival who thought of this and the Swiss television people who had it televised. The words, “We don’t know how lucky we are,” float through my head, and I hope through yours.
And this one is for Bonnie Prince Andrew of Malta.
Even as jazz as an art form prides itself on “moving forward,” it’s always been affectionately retrospective, cherishing the deep past and the recent past in performance and recordings. Think of Louis bringing his mentor’s DIPPER MOUTH BLUES to the Henderson band, even though Joe Oliver was probably continuing to play it; Bix and Tram recording the ODJB’s OSTRICH WALK; Bird playing Lester’s solo on SHOE SHINE BOY. (I am indebted to Matthew Rivera for reminding me of this idea through his radio broadcast on WKCR.)
One of the most rewarding institutions to come out of jazz’s desire to both honor the past as itself and to make it new was the New York Jazz Repertory Company. Not only did the NYJRC perform at the Newport in New York jazz festival, it brought its “shows” worldwide, most often under the leadership of the brilliant Dick Hyman. I saw Louis and Bix tributes in the early Seventies, and they were electrifying; even better, the NYJRC idea was a staple of the Nice Jazz Festival, and some of the concert performances were broadcast on French television. (I’ve posted a ninety-minute tribute to Benny Goodman recently here.
Trotting through YouTube last night — the cyber-equivalent of my getting on my bicycle when I was thirteen and riding to the public library — I found two half-hour NYJRC delights, posted by others in 2015, that I hadn’t seen before. I predict that you will enjoy them also. The first is a Basie tribute, from July 12, 1978; the second, Duke, July 17, 1977.
Those expecting note-for-note recreations of recordings will be, I think, pleasantly surprised by the openness of the arrangements and the leeway given the “contemporary” soloists to play their personalities. Everything is reasonably idiomatic but there are delightful shocks here and there.
The “Basie band” here is Sweets Edison, Cat Anderson, Jimmie Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpet; Benny Powell, Dicky Wells, John Gordon, trombone; Paul Bascomb, Paul Moen, Bob Wilber, Pepper Adams, Earle Warren, reeds; Dick Hyman, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Chubby Jackson, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. I count at least six venerated Basie alumni.
JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE (Paul Bascomb, Harry Edison, Benny Powell, Bob Wilber, Dick Hyman) / ONE O’CLOCK JUMP (Hyman, Paul Moen, Dicky Wells, Bascomb, Joe Newman, Hyman) / ROCK-A-BYE BASIE (Wilber, Moen, Sweets, Hyman and Chubby Jackson) / HARVARD BLUES (Bascomb, Newman, vocal) / BROADWAY (Wilber, Sweets, Hyman, Wilber, Bascomb, Pepper Adams, Powell, John Gordon, Earle Warren, Cat Anderson, Moen):
and “the Ellington band,” made up of many of the same champions, Hyman, Rosengarden, Wilber, Pepper Adams, Maxwell — with Jon Faddis, Pee Wee Erwin, Joe Newman, trumpets; Eddie Daniels, Zoot Sims, Billy Mitchell, reeds; George Duvivier, string bass, John Mosca, Billy Campbell, Earl McIntyre, trombone:
EAST ST. LOUIS-TOODLE OO (Wilber, Pepper, Daniels, Erwin) / DOUBLE CHECK STOMP (Maxwell, Wilber, Billy Campbell) / JUNGLE NIGHTS IN HARLEM (possibly John Mosca, Maxwell, Daniels) / DOCTOR E.K.E. (composition by Raymond Fol, piano; Mosca, Mitchell, Faddis, Sam Woodyard, drums) / HARLEM AIR-SHAFT (McIntyre, Faddis, Daniels, Joe Newman) / BLUE GOOSE (Wilber, Maxwell, Zoot, Mosca, Wilber) / JUMPIN’ PUNKINS (Duvivier, Pepper, Rosengarden, Hyman, Rosengarden) / CHELSEA BRIDGE (Hyman, Zoot, Hyman, McIntyre):
Honoring the originals and their creators but giving plenty of space to honor the present — a lovely balance. And if you’d rather hear the Basie Deccas and Ellington Victors, they will still be there, undamaged and pristine.
The imaginative types among us sometimes launch the idea of the music we know with a central figure removed from the landscape — a much-diminished alternative universe. What, we say, would our world have been like had young Louis Armstrong chosen to go into waste management? Imagine the musical-cultural landscape without Sinatra, Bing, Billie? Quickly, the mind at play comes to a stop, because such absences are so unimaginable that they serve to remind us of the power of these individuals long after they have left the neighborhood.
I’d like to add a name to that list — Benjamin David Goodman, born in Chicago. These days it seems that Benny, once the King of Swing, is either taken for granted so deeply that he is forgotten, or he is reviled for bad behavior. To the former, I can only point to our cultural memory loss: if it’s older than breakfast, we’ve forgotten its name, so hungry for new sensations we appear to be.
And to the latter, I see it as rooted in an unattractive personal envy. We can’t play the clarinet like Benny; we don’t appear on concert stages, radio, and television. (I exempt professional musicians, often underpaid and anonymous, from this: they have earned the right to tell stories.) This reminds some of us that all the bad things our classmates said of us in fourth grade still are valid. So some of us energetically delight in the Great Person’s failings, as if retelling the story of how he didn’t tip the waiter makes up for our inability to equal his artistic achievements, and the life of diligent effort that made them possible. Benny could behave unthinkingly, but we’ve all done that. If we understood our own need to tear down those larger than ourselves, perhaps we would refrain from doing it. Bluntly, feasting on the story of Benny putting on a sweater says much more about our collective insecurities than about his obliviousness. But enough of that: we have beautiful music to savor here.
I don’t know if the New York Jazz Repertory Company, such a wonderful enterprise in the 1970s and onwards, was George Wein’s idea or perhaps Dick Hyman’s — but it was a marvel. If someone proposed a concert tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, well, you could bring Joe Venuti, Spiegle Willcox, Paul Mertz, and Chauncey Morehouse to the stage alongside Zoot Sims, Vince Giordano, Warren Vache, Bucky Pizzarelli — the best musicians readily available having a splendid time amidst the Ancestors, the Survivors. Concerts for Louis, Duke, and Basie were just as enthralling. The NYJRC experience was a kind of jazz Camelot, and its moments were shining, perhaps brief, and surely memorable.
The Nice Jazz Festival had enough expert musicians — expert in experience and in feeling — to put together NYJRC evenings, and here is a July 1979 one devoted to not only Benny but to the worlds he created.
For me, imagining a world without “BG” is again unthinkable. He wasn’t the only person who made hot music — creative jazz improvisation — such an accessible phenomenon for the widest audience, an audience perhaps unaware that they were dancing to great art, but he did it. And he wasn’t the only person to have Black and White musicians on the public stage, but his contributions to racial equality are too large to be ignored. And he himself made great music and inspired others to do so.
Enough polemic. But Benny remains a King, and efforts to dethrone him are and should be futile.
Both Dick Hyman and Bob Wilber had worked with Benny, and their love, admiration, and understanding shine through this concert presentation devoted to his big band and small groups of the Swing Era. The band is full of Goodman alumnae (we must remind ourselves also that Benny was active on his own in 1979) including Pee Wee Erwin, an integral part of Benny’s 1935 orchestra. Hyman not only plays brilliantly but supports the whole enterprise; Wilber embodies Benny in his own lucent fashion, and Pug Horton sweetly summons up a whole raft of Benny’s singers. Too, the individual players get to have their say in their own fashion — something that was a lovely part of the worlds Benny made and made possible.
Here’s ninety minutes of music, delightful on its own and as an evocation of a masterful musician and his impact on us, whether we acknowledge it or not.
The New York Jazz Repertory Company: Bob Wilber, clarinet; Dick Hyman, piano; Arnie Lawrence, Haywood Henry, Norris Turney, Budd Johnson, reeds; Eddie Bert, Britt Woodman, Mike Zwerin, trombone; Jimmie Maxwell, Ernie Royal, Pee Wee Erwin, Dick Sudhalter, trumpet; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Pug Horton, vocal.
Warming up / George Wein announces / LET’S DANCE (Hyman, Wilber, Lawrence, Hyman) / KING PORTER STOMP (Maxwell, Wilber, Maxwell, Zwerin, Budd, Hyman, Bucky, Duvivier) / STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY (Hyman, Wilber, Bert, Budd, Bert, Bucky, Wilber) / BODY AND SOUL (Wilber, Hyman, Rosengarden) / CHINA BOY (trio) / SEVEN COME ELEVEN (add Bucky, Duvivier) / add Pug Horton, vocal / GOODNIGHT, MY LOVE / SILHOUETTED IN THE MOONLIGHT / SOMEBODY ELSE IS TAKING MY PLACE / Pug out / RACHEL’S DREAM / big band returns / STEALIN’ APPLES arr. Henderson (Hyman, Wilber, Erwin, Turney, Woodman, WIlber // Intermission: Wilber introduces the orchestra while Bucky plays GOODBYE // SWINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES (Budd, Wilber [alto], Hyman, Henry, Bert, Lawrence, Wilber, trumpet section trades / PAGANINI CAPRICE No. 24 arr. Skip Martin (Hyman, Wilber, Budd) / A SMOOTH ONE (Wilber, Maxwell, Budd, Bucky, Hyman, Duvivier, Rosengarden) / AS LONG AS I LIVE / AIR MAIL SPECIAL / (add Pug, big band reed section returns) WE’LL MEET AGAIN / WHEN THE SUN COMES OUT / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO (Hyman) / (Pug out, full band) SING SING SING (Wilber, Rosengarden, Budd, Wilber, Maxwell) / GOOD-BYE //
As the waitperson says when she puts your fish tacos in front of you, “Enjoy.”
I have a real affection for the recordings and performances of the New York Jazz Repertory Company: a floating all-star ensemble I saw in person in 1974 and 1975, honoring Louis and Bix, among others.
At their best, they were expert, passionate, and evocative — the supporting players were the best studio players / jazz improvisers who could sight-read with elan and then solo eloquently. And they always had the best ancestral guest stars: in the concerts I saw, Ruby Braff, Ray Nance, Vic Dickenson, Taft Jordan, Chauncey Morehouse, Paul Mertz, and Joe Venuti. I can’t leave out the superb guidance and playing of Dick Hyman, whose idiosyncratic brilliance is always a transforming force.
Later in the Seventies, someone, probably George Wein, understood that the NYJRC was a compact, portable way of not only reproducing great performances but in taking jazz history, effectively presented, on the road, to France, the USSR, and elsewhere. Thus they made appearances at festivals and did extensive tours — bringing POTATO HEAD BLUES with Louis’ solo scored for three trumpets, frankly electrifying, as I can testify.
Here they are at the Nice Jazz Festival, making Bix come alive by (with some exceptions) not playing his recorded solos, gloriously. And the rhythm section swings more than on the 1928 OKehs, which would have pleased Bix, who didn’t want to be tied to what he’d played in 1923. Occasionally the “big band” tends to be a fraction of a second behind where one would like it, and Spiegle Willcox uncharacteristically gets lost in a solo . . . but the music shines, especially since this is the joyous evocation of Bix rather than the too-often heard elegies for his short life. My small delight is that someone — Pee Wee Erwin — quotes SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON in the last sixteen bars of AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL. And Dick Sudhalter and Bob Wilber positively gleam throughout.
The collective personnel: Dick Hyman, piano, leader; Dick Sudhalter, cornet, flugelhorn; Spiegle Willcox, trombone; Bob Wilber, clarinet, reeds; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; Pee Wee Erwin, Ernie Royal, Jimmie Maxwell, trumpet; Budd Johnson, Arnie Lawrence, Norris Turney, Haywood Henry, reeds; Britt Woodman, Eddie Bert, and one other, trombone.
RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE / DAVENPORT BLUES (Sudhalter, flugelhorn – Hyman) / IN THE DARK (Bucky, Hyman, Duvivier) / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS (Sudhalter, Turney) / IN A MIST (Hyman) / CLEMENTINE (Sudhalter, unid. tbn, Bucky, Hyman / JAZZ ME BLUES (Sudhalter, Spiegle, Wilber, Hyman — playing Bix’s solo) / SWEET SUE (Spiegle, Bucky, Wilber, Sudhalter playing the 1928 solo) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL //
This televised presentation was designed to show what the NYJRC could “do”: a varied selection of music across decades and styles. I will post another segment, by “The Unobstructed Orchestra,” soon.
Forty-five minutes of the past made completely alive.
May your happiness increase!
Postscript, which could be called ON THE FUNCTION OF CRITICISM. A few minutes after I’d posted this, someone I don’t know wrote to comment on YouTube: I offer an edited version: “The great weakness of this re-creation is Z, I am sure he plays all the notes, but somehow it does not work at 100%. L was still a good mainstream player and the rythm section is very adequate, P consistently good.”
I find this irksome, perhaps out of proportion to the size of the offense, and, of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But to make it public, in print, is upsetting to me — as if the commenter had been invited to my house for dinner and, upon being served, told me that my place settings were somehow not up to his standards. I do not like everything I hear, but I think “criticism” of this sort contributes nothing to the discussion, except, perhaps, a buffing of the ego of the commentator, who Knows What’s Good.
I am aware that this is hugely anachronistic, out of place in 2021, but I bridle when my heroes are insulted . . .
Masters of the soprano saxophone Kenny Davern (straight soprano) and Bob Wilber (curved soprano) plus Claude Luter, clarinet, who played alongside Sidney Bechet on dozens of recordings and live performances, pay homage to the Master, with Marty Grosz, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums, at the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France, on July 20, 1975.
SOME OF THESE DAYS / Wilber talks / THE FISH VENDOR / Wilber introduces Claude Luter / PETITE FLEUR (Wilber and Davern out) / ST. LOUIS BLUES (Wilber and Davern return) / DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND (Luter) /CHINA BOY (Wilber and Davern return):
Passion, control, romanticism, swing. You can hear it all.
The cold facts. Trombonist / composer / bandleader Curtis Fuller, born December 15, 1934, left us on May 8, 2021.
In Michael J. West’s farewell piece in Jazz Times, he wrote this, “Asked in a 2012 interview by writer Mark Stryker about the keys to a good solo, Fuller replied, ‘Humor and dialogue. … Music is English composition. Each song should have a subject, and phrases should have a noun, a verb, and like that. It should be expressive. Exclamation points: Bap!’”
I knew there were reasons I admired this man. And although I was initially excited about the music you will hear because of the presence of my hero Jimmie Rowles, I celebrate Curtis Fuller as well. This session from the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 13, 1978 — audio only — presents Curtis Fuller, trombone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Barney WIlen, tenor saxophone; Red Mitchell, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums, playing a repertoire that I would call sophisticated Mainstream: SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE / ALL OF YOU / THESE FOOLISH THINGS (Mitchell) / STELLA BY STARLIGHT with Fuller cadenza / JITTERBUG WALTZ (Rowles, Mitchell, Rosengarden).
I know some of my more “traditional” readers might feel that jazz trombone begins and ends with Jack Teagarden, and I revere Jack, Vic, Bennie, Dicky, their ancestors and their modern heirs, but I urge them to give Curtis Fuller an open-eared hearing. He is a great vocal player; he speaks to us; he has things to say. Fuller is technically adept but he is more interested in telling us his very vocal stories. Hear him out. And you can, on a second hearing, absorb Rowles’ subversive beauties, and the way the rest of the band — apparently an unusual mixture of players — settles in to swing:
Thank you, Curtis, for your energy, humor, and open-heartedness.
It was one of those bands that actually lived up to its bold title, whether the front line was as it was here, or the variation that I saw in Morgan Park in Glen Cove, so many years ago — Joe Wilder and Phil Bodner (with Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, and I think Ronnie Zito).
Under Dick Hyman’s astonishing leadership, the Quintet chose to concentrate on jazz before the Second World War, but the result was timeless, full of improvisational brilliance and energy, even though there were many manuscripts on those music stands. One of the pleasures of the video that follows is seeing members of the quintet, professional in every detail, taking their music off the stands at the end of the set. But I have doubt that a Quintet performance concentrating on the music of Tadd Dameron, Charlie Parker, and early Miles Davis would have been compelling music also.
Here we have their first manifestation: Dick Hyman, piano; Pee Wee Erwin, cornet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones; Milt Hinton, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums.
The video that follows captures a performance at the Grande Parade du Jazz, made for French television but apparently not broadcast and certainly not trimmed-down for time limitations.
Setting up [for the impatient, the “music begins at” 5:55] / CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME / I’M GONNA STOMP MR. HENRY LEE [at a lovely swaying tempo] / MY MAN’S GONE NOW (Wilber) / OLD MAN BLUES / SOPHISTICATED LADY (Hyman, Hinton, Rosengarden) / JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK (Erwin – Hyman) / DOOJI WOOJI / DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN / a few seconds of packing up //.
The late reedman Leroy “Sam” Parkins told me, more than once, that great art was in the balance between passionate abandon and expert restraint. The Quintet embodies that in every note.
A very happy P.S. I posted this video early on Friday, February 20, and mid-afternoon Mr. Dick Human himself (he will be 94 this March 8) commented on the video:
In front, Bobby Hackett, Louis Armstrong, George Wein; behind them, Joe Newman, Dizzy Gillespie — at the July 1970 celebration of Louis at the Newport Jazz Festival.
I saw the pleasing news on Facebook — and in an online source called CELEBRITY ACCESS, which summed it all up with a video and these words (if the New York Times had a front-page story, it eluded me, alas):
NEWPORT, RI (CelebrityAccess) — George Wein, the legendary pianist, jazz and festival promoter, turned 95 on Saturday.
Wein, who founded the Newport Jazz Festival and co-founded the Newport Folk Festival, also played a key role in the creation of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Wein’s birthday was marked by tributes from the likes of James Taylor, Senator Jack Reed, Dianne Reeves, Jason Moran, Nate Smith, and Ben Jaffe.
George deserves a little more fuss.
The Newport Jazz Festival, which he founded in 1954 — and is still a going concern — featured everyone. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Archie Shepp. Duke, Louis, Miles, Trane, Dizzy, Monk, Hamp, Benny, Billie, Roy, Hawk, Pres, Ben. What other festival featured both Donald Lambert and Sonny Rollins? If you didn’t appear at Newport — in its now sixty-six year span — you had died before it began [Bessie Smith, Charlie Parker, Frank Newton, Hot Lips Page] or you had missed your set. George’s reach was extensive and his tastes heroically inclusive. Those who never got to Rhode Island were nourished by recordings and performance film footage; George created tours — Europe and Japan — that brought the music to eager audiences who would otherwise not have partaken of it first-hand.
Before Newport, George had clubs in Boston: Storyville and Mahogany Hall, where you could enjoy Sidney Catlett, Stan Getz, Sidney Bechet, Lee Konitz, Erroll Garner, and other deities. When the Newport Jazz Festival took a brief trip to New York, as the Kool Jazz Festival or the JVC Jazz Festival, I was able to see Benny Carter, Allen Eager, Charles Mingus, Lee Wiley, Gene Krupa and others who gladden my heart. In the early Fifties, George also had a record label — Storyville — where you could hear Milli Vernon and Beryl Booker, Ruby Braff, Teddi King, Ellis Larkins, Johnny Windhurst and Jo Jones. I’m also reasonably sure that George’s generosity — not publicized, but apparent — kept some musicians in gigs and dinner for long periods.
Incidentally, I am doing all of this delighted salute from memory: George’s 2004 autobiography, MYSELF AMONG OTHERS, is a much more detailed view at almost six hundred pages, so I know I have left out a great deal for which George deserves praise.
George also loves to play the piano and to sing, and although I think those activities have slowed down or ceased in recent years, his pleasure in these activities emerged most fully in the Newport All-Stars, a group that at various times featured Tal Farlow, Pee Wee Russell, Buzzy Drootin, Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti, Red Norvo, Norris Turney, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Bud Freeman, Slam Stewart, and others: George’s discography begins in 1951 and its most recent entry is 2012.
I’d like to offer some swinging evidence of George as pianist: not at his own festival in Newport, but at the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, in July 1977: a nearly nineteen-minute jam on TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, nominally under the leadership of clarinet legend Barney Bigard — featuring Jimmy Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpet; Clark Terry, trumpet and flugelhorn; Eddie Daniels, tenor saxophone; Slam Stewart, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. Notice the atypically expansive piano solo that George creates at the start: percussive, surprising, mobile . . . and watch Barney Bigard’s delighted face at the end.
Happy birthday, George! Our lives would be much poorer had you chosen another career.
Jazz festivals and jazz parties with a proliferation of star soloists sometimes get everyone who’s available to take a few choruses on a standard composition, which can result in brilliant interludes or dull displays. The results are not the same as a working jazz ensemble, but they do often create splendid surprises.
Here is a seventeen-minute exploration of the Duke Ellington-Bubber Miley 1932 evergreen that took place at the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 15, 1977, nominally under clarinetist Barney Bigard’s leadership, which really translates here as his being the first horn soloist. The others are John Lewis, piano; Slam Stewart, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; Clark Terry, Jimmy Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpets; Vic Dickenson, Kai Winding, trombones; Eddie Daniels, tenor saxophone. (To my ears, Daniels seems a visitor from another world.) A “string of solos,” yes, but, oh! what solos:
In the summer of 1972, Red Balaban led one of his often-eloquent bands at Your Father’s Mustache (once Nick’s, now an empty space for rent) with Bobby Hackett as the guest star — and I recall Joe Muranyi, Dick Rath, Chuck Folds, Marquis Foster. Barney Bigard was in the house, and Bobby invited him up (Muranyi graciously sat the set out except for a two-clarinet HONEYSUCKLE ROSE). The bell of Barney’s clarinet was perhaps three feet from my face, and his sound — on ROSE ROOM, MOOD INDIGO, and two or three others — was warm and luminous. Yes, he looked exactly like my tenth-grade English teacher, but Mr. Kavanagh had no such glissandos.
There will be more to come from the Nice Jazz Festival. And in case you missed my most recent extravagant offering — ninety-seven minutes of bliss — you can immerse yourself here. MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) used to say it had “more stars than there are in heaven,” and you will find them in that post: George Barnes, Benny Carter, Bobby Hackett, Illinois Jacquet, Ruby Braff, Wingy Manone, Dick Sudhalter, Spiegle Willcox, Michael Moore, Pee Wee Erwin, Eddie Hubble . . . along with Barney, Vic, and others.
Many years ago — in the mid-Seventies — I could buy the few legitimate recordings of music (a series of RCA Victor lps, then Black and Blue issues) performed at the Grande Parade du Jazz, with astonishing assortments of artists.
As I got deeper into the collecting world, friends sent me private audio cassettes they and others had recorded.
Old-fashioned love, or audio cassettes of music from the Grande Parade du Jazz.
A few video performances began to surface on YouTube. In the last year, the Collecting Goddess may have felt I was worthy to share more with you, so a number of videos have come my way. And so I have posted . . . .
music from July 1977 with Benny Carter, Vic Dickenson, Kai Winding, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, J.C. Heard, Ray Bryant, Milt Hinton, Mel Lewis, and Teddy Wilson here;
a July 1978 interlude with Jimmy Rowles and Sir Roland Hanna at two grand pianos here;
a wondrous Basie tribute from July 1975 with Sweets Edison, Joe Newman, Clark Terry, Vic Dickenson, Zoot Sims, Buddy Tate, Illinois Jacquet, Lockjaw Davis, Earle Warren, Johnny Guarnieri, George Duvivier, Marty Grosz, Ray Mosca, Helen Humes here;
and a delicious session with Benny Carter, George Barnes, Ruby Braff, Vinnie Corrao, Michael Moore, Ray Mosca here.
If you missed any of these postings, I urge you to stop, look, and listen. One sure palliative for the emotional stress we are experiencing.
At this point in our history, Al Jolson is a cultural pariah, so I cannot quote him verbatim, but I will say that you haven’t seen anything yet. Here is a compendium from July 21, 24, and 25, 1975, several programs originally broadcast on French television, in total almost one hundred minutes.
Benny Carter, Illinois Jacquet, Kenny Drew, Arvell Shaw, Bobby Rosengarden BLUES 7.24.75
Benny Carter, Ruby Braff, Gorge Barnes, Michael Moore, Vinnie Corrao, Ray Mosca WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / 7.25
LADY BE GOOD as BLUES
I CAN’T GET STARTED / LOVER COME BACK TO ME as WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS
INDIANA 7.21.75 Pee Wee Erwin, Herb Hall, Eddie Hubble, Art Hodes, Placide Adams, Marty Grosz, Panama Francis
SWEET LORRAINE Bobby Hackett, Hodes, Adams, Grosz, Francis
OH, BABY! as INDIANA plus Bobby Hackett
ROSE ROOM Dick Sudhalter, Barney Bigard, Vic Dickenson, Hodes, Grosz, Adams, Francis
WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS Bob Wilber, Hodes, Grosz, Adams, Francis
BLUE ROOM Wingy Manone, Sudhalter, Vic, Bigard, Wilber, same rhythm as above
BLUES Wingy, everyone plus Maxim Saury, Alain Bouchet, Erwin, Hackett, Hubble, Vic Spiegle Willcox, Bigard, Hall, Wilber, Hodes, Grosz, Adams, Francis
SWEET GEORGIA BROWN Moustache for Francis
“If that don’t get it, then forget it right now,” Jack Teagarden (paraphrased).
Here’s something for the intellectual puzzle-solvers in the JAZZ LIVES audience.
Kenny Davern, Yank Lawson, Connie Jones, Pee Wee Erwin, Doc Cheatham, Chuck Folds, George Masso, Don Goldie, Johnny Varro, Jon-Erik Kellso, Paul Keller, Ed Polcer, Eddie Higgins, Marty Grosz, Bill Allred, Bob Schulz, Bobby Rosengarden, Milt Hinton, Brian Torff, Johnny Frigo, Peter Ecklund, John Sheridan, Brian Holland, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Ken Peplowski, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, the Fat Babies, and more.
Figured it out? The answers, although indirect, are below, and they relate to the Juvae Jazz Society and the Central Illinois Jazz Festival: the story of their inception is here.
I confess that Decatur, Illinois has really never loomed large in my vision of bucket-list places. But I have been terribly myopic about this for the past quarter-century. Consider the poster below, please:
The Juvae Jazz Society is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and rather than expecting people to bring them silver plates and candelabra, they are throwing a one-day jazz party, which you might have understood from the poster above. (The list of musicians is just some of the notables who have played and sung for them in the last quarter-century.)
Although I admire Petra van Nuis and Andy Brown immensely, I’ve never had a chance to hear Petra and the Recession Seven live. The Chicago Cellar Boys are one of my favorite bands and would even be so if Dave Bock wore a more sedate bow tie. Other surprises are possible as well.
Here is the first part of my conversation with Hank, about an hour — and a post that explains who he is and what he is doing, in case his name is new to you.
Hank O’Neal and Qi, 2003, by Ian Clifford
Hank is a splendid storyteller with a basket of tales — not only about musical heroes, but about what it takes to create lasting art, and the intersection of commerce with that art.
Here’s Hank, talking about the later days of Chiaroscuro, with comments on Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, John Hart, Borah Bergman, “Dollar Brand,” Abdullah Ibrahim, Chuck Israels, and more. But the music business is not the same as music, so Hank talks about his interactions with Audio Fidelity and a mention of rescuer Andrew Sordoni. Please don’t quit before the end of this video: wonderful stories!
The end of the Chiaroscuro story is told on the door — no pot of gold, but a soda machine. However, Hank mentions WBIA, which is, in its own way, the pot of music at the end of the rainbow — where one can hear the music he recorded all day and all night for free — visit here and here:
I asked Hank to talk about sessions he remembered — glorious chapters in a jazz saga. The cast of characters includes Earl Hines, Joe Venuti, Flip Phillips, Kenny Davern, Dave McKenna, Dick Wellstood, Buck Clayton, and more:
Hank and I are going to talk some more. He’s promised, and I’m eager. Soon! And — in case it isn’t obvious — what a privilege to know Mister O’Neal.
Is surrender capitulating to an enemy, saying “I give up. You are stronger.” or is it an enlightened act, a realization that there are powers we can’t conquer and that the idea of conquering anything is futile?
I’ve always found I SURRENDER, DEAR — so powerfully connected to Bing Crosby — both touching and mysterious. As Gordon Clifford’s lyrics tell us, the singer is saying, in effect, “Take me back. Here is my heart. I give up all pretense of being distant. I need you,” which is deeply moving, a surrender of all ego-barriers and pretense. But I’ve never been able to figure out whether “Here, take my heart,” is greeted with “I’d love to welcome you back,” or “No thanks, I’m full.” Other songs hold out the possibility of reconciliation (consider IN A LITTLE SECOND-HAND STORE or WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE) but this one ends unresolved. It’s also one of those songs that lends itself to a variety of interpretations: both Bing and Louis in the same year, then a proliferation of tenor saxophonists, and pianists from Monk to Garner to Teddy. And (before the music starts) probably thanks to Roy Eldridge, there’s also an honored tradition of slipping into double-time.
Here, however, are ten versions that move me.
January 1931: Bing Crosby with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra. Note the orchestral flourishes:
Later that same year: Victor Young and the Brunswick Concert Orchestra, featuring Frank Munn, not enough of the Boswell Sisters (acting as their own concert orchestra) and a few seconds of Tommy Dorsey. I think this was an effort to show that Paul Whiteman didn’t have a monopoly on musical extravagance, and I’ve never seen a label credit “Paraphrased by . . . “. I also note the vocal bridge turns to 3/4, and Munn sings “are doing” rather than “were doing,” but we wait patiently for the Sisters to appear, and they do:
Imagine anyone better than Ben Webster? Here, in 1944, with our hero Hot Lips Page:
Forward several decades: Joe Venuti, Zoot Sims, John Bunch, Milt Hinton, Bobby Rosengarden 1975:
1978 — a duet of Earl Hines and Harry Edison:
Raymond Burke, Butch Thompson, Cie Frazier in New Orleans, 1979:
and something I was privileged to witness and record, flapping fan blades and all, from February 2010 (Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Marcus Milius, Debbie Kennedy):
Ray Skjelbred, Marc Caparone, Jim Buchmann, Katie Cavera, Beau Sample, Hal Smith, at the San Diego Jazz Fest in November 2014:
Nobody follows Louis. 1931:
and the majestic version from 1956:
A little tale of the powers of Surrender. In years past, I would drive into Manhattan, my car full of perishables, and search for a parking spot. Of course there were none. I could feel the gelato melting; I could feel my blood pressure rising contrapuntally. Frustrated beyond belief, I would roll down my window and ask the Parking Goddess for her help. “I do not ask for your assistance that often, and I admit that I cannot do this on my own. I am powerless without your help. Will you be merciful to me?” And I would then circle the block again and a spot would have opened up. My theory is that such supplication works only if one is willing to surrender the ego, the facade of one’s own power. Of course it has also been known to work for other goals, but that is an essay beyond the scope of JAZZ LIVES.
For now, surrender whole-heartedly and see what happens.
Marian McPartland and Monk Rowe, photo by Val DeVisser
Monk Rowe is a jazz musician — saxophonist, pianist, composer, arranger — and he has a day gig at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, as the Joe Williams Director of the Filius Jazz Archive there. The Archive will be twenty-one in 2016, and it is indeed remarkably adult.
So far, Monk has conducted video interviews with more than 325 musicians, ranging from the great forbears (Doc Cheatham, Eddie Bert, Kenny Davern, Jerry Jerome, Ray Conniff, Joe Williams, Milt Hinton) to the living legends of the present and future (Nicki Parrott, Kidd Jordan, Sherrie Maricle, Bill Charlap, Holly Hofmann, Maria Schneider). And excerpts from those interviews, thematically and intelligently arranged, now form a compact yet impressive book (with a brief foreword by jazz eminence Dan Morgenstern) whose title is above.
A friend at Hamilton sent me a copy of the book some weeks back, and I have been slow to write about it — for two reasons. One, the semester got in the way, unforgivably, and two, I was often making notes and laughing so hard that I couldn’t read much at a sitting. But my instant recommendation is BUY IT. So those of you who want to skip the evidence can zoom to the bottom of this post. Others can linger.
A brief prelude. I am immensely in favor of oral history although it cannot replace the best analysis or aesthetic criticism. I wouldn’t give up Whitney Balliett, Martin Williams, Gary Giddins, Anthony Barnett, Frank Buchmann-Moller, Manfred Selchow, or John Chilton . . . the list goes on and I know I am leaving two dozen worthy writers out. But what wouldn’t we give for a ten-minute interview with Tony Fruscella, Frank Teschemacher, Jimmy Harrison, Herschel Evans, Eddie Lang, Jimmy Blanton, or Buster Bailey? True, some musicians were and are shy or not always able to articulate much about the music, but others — as we know — are born raconteurs, sharp observers, comedians, anthropologists. Their stories, no matter how brief, are precious. Two pages by Clark Terry where he speaks of being beaten by Caucasians because he was a “Nigerian” while in Mississippi — and then being rescued by another group of Caucasians — say more about race relations in the United States than twenty hours of PBS footage could ever do.
The material is organized thematically, enabling the reader to hear, for instance, stories of life on the road from Kenny Davern, Lanny Morgan, and Phil Woods. Then there are sharp observations — one can almost hear the rimshot that follows. Dave Pell calls Stan Getz “the greatest dressing room player that ever lived.” Stan Kenton stops his band from swinging too much and says, “This is not Basie. This is Stan Kenton.” Bobby Rosengarden talks about Toscanini, Joe Wilder about punctuality, Dick Hyman and Bucky Pizzarelli about life in the recording studio. Keter Betts, as a high-school student, is bought lunch by Milt Hinton; Jean Bach explains the Ellington habit of “seagulling”; Sherrie Maricle recalls her metal clarinet. Dan Barrett gives advice to young musicians. Randy Sandke talks about the perils of thinking. Karl Berger talks about his conducting; Kidd Jordan deconstructs a song’s title. And there’s a historical perspective covering nearly a century: we hear Doc Cheatham talk about Ma Rainey, then Jerry Jerome describe the first Glenn Miller band — all the way up to the present.
It’s an enthralling book. And since Monk Rowe is a professional musician, his interludes and commentary are more than useful; his questions are on the mark. Other writers put themselves into the dialogue merely to say, “Well, Dizzy always used to say to me,” but Monk is a gracious interpreter rather than a narcissist.
To find out the story of the elephant beer and the priceless answer, visit Monk’s JAZZ BACKSTORY blog here and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Then you can read the rest of Phil Woods’ words and — by the way — find out exactly what Dizzy Gillespie said when presented with the key to the city of Syracuse, New York.
JAZZ TALES FROM JAZZ LEGENDS is available here through Amazon. And the proceeds from the book support the Archives.
NEWS FLASH: Monk is going to be teaching a free online course on jazz, starting February 2, 2016: details here.
I could write a long piece on the history of the West Texas Jazz Party — in Odessa, Texas — which in 2016 will celebrate its fiftieth year. This, for those keeping count, makes it the longest-running jazz party in existence. I could list the names of the luminaries who played, say, in 1980 — Red Norvo, John Best, Lou Stein, Carl Fontana, Kenny Davern, George Masso, Herb Ellis, Buddy Tate, Flip Phillips, Dave McKenna, Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson, PeeWee Erwin, Cliff Leeman, Bobby Rosengarden, John Bunch, Buddy Tate, and the still-vibrant Ed Polcer, Bucky Pizzarelli, Michael Moore, Bob Wilber.
But I think it is more important to offer the evidence: the music made at this party, which is superb Mainstream jazz. Here are several videos from the 2013 WTJP — they will unfold in sequence if you allow them to — featuring Ken Peplowski, Ehud Asherie, Ed Metz, Joel Forbes, Chuck Redd, Randy Sandke, and John Allred:
And the musicians themselves speak sweetly about the pleasure of attending the party and playing there (Ken, Chuck Redd, Dan Barrett, Bucky):
The superb videos — both music and interview — are the work of David Leonnig, who’s also helped inform me about the Party.
This year’s party will take place May 14-17, at the MCM Eleganté Hotel
in Odessa, Texas and the musicians are:
Piano: Johnny Varro, Ehud Asherie, Rossano Sportiello
Bass: Joel Forbes. Frank Tate, Nicki Parrott (vocals)
Drums: Chuck Redd (vibes), Tony Tedesco, Butch Miles
Trumpet: Ed Polcer, Warren Vache, Randy Sandke
Trombone: Dan Barrett, John Allred
Reeds: Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Allan Vache
Guitar: Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Laub (vocals)
Vocals: Rebecca Kilgore
The West Texas Jazz Party is sponsored in part by:
• The Texas Commission for the Arts
• Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities
• The Rea Charitable Trust
Patron Tickets: $200: Reserved Seating for all performances and Saturday Brunch.
General Admission: Each performance $50 • Brunch $50
For Hotel Reservations, call 432-368-5885 and ask tor the Jazz Rate of $129.00. For Jazz Party or Brunch Reservations, call 432-552-8962. The WTJP now is accepting credit cards or make a check payable to: West Texas Jazz Society • P.O. Box 10832 • Midland, Texas 79702.
It looks as if a good time will be had by all. For the forty-ninth consecutive year!
Then and now, jazz critics to look scornfully on “all-star” sets at concerts. Some of the musicians play to the crowd; solos go on too long or were rushed; tempos were brisk; the repertoire simplified; the gatherings weren’t always well-planned.
But now, nearly forty years after this jam session at the Nice Jazz Festival, we can only give thanks for such an assemblage. We can note mournfully that almost all of the musicians named above — with the exception of Harley White and Eddie Graham — have departed.
Here are giants.
And you’ll see delightful fashion statements as well — Norvo’s summer casual; Carter’s psychedelic trousers; Hackett’s demure mandarin collar, and more. Hines’s attire needs its own posting.
George Wein announces Hines; the stagehands move around; we see Duvivier toting his bass and Rosengarden making those preliminary percussive noises before Hines appears, smiling widely. He begins a brisk OUR MONDAY DATE with the rhythm falling in line — and all the flash, daring, and exuberance is entirely in place, forty-five years after his early bravura playing in Chicago. The ensemble that follows is cheerful although the instrumental voices seem to float to the surface and down again — perhaps because of the cinematography of Jean-Christophe Averty (usually known for his incessant cutting between shots) focuses on Hines. Carter is majestically fleet for two; Norvo cool and mobile for his, raising and lowering his shoulder as always.
But little dramas are going on. Carter is dissatisfied with his reed and is working on it; Vic looks as if he’d rather be elsewhere, at a slower tempo (although his bridge is splendid). The other all-stars seem to have decided that the way to deal with Hines’ tempo is to split choruses — Bigard / Venuti swap trademark phrases for two choruses (while Bigard plays, Venuti tidies his bow); Hackett and Carter embark on the same playful gambit, but the King looks quite surprised at a squeak and is almost ready to put his horn down for its misdemeanor. Hines returns for two exuberantly showy choruses, mixing lopsided shards of the melody with surrealistic stride, calling the band in for a final chorus (where the camera stays on them), Hackett more powerfully leading — into the leader’s showy extended ending: nine minutes later.
A year later, it is Hines (in green) with Harley White, bass; Eddie Graham, drums, paying tribute to early Ellington with BLACK AND TAN FANTASY in a reading that sticks closely to the original arrangement — then a romping C JAM BLUES which is all Hines at his flying best, with an equally flying solo by White and a half-time ending.
What follows is, for me, magic: Vic Dickenson playing a ballad, I GOT IT BAD, with no other horns.
Please note how he quietly puts the tempo where he wants it (slower than Hines has counted it off) and his amazing variety of tones and moods — exultation and pathos, sadness and near-mockery. No mutes, nothing but years of lip technique and experimenting with the kinds of sounds both he and the horn could make. The delicacy yet solid swing of the last eight bars of his second chorus; the entire solo returning to the melody but the very antithesis of “straight” playing. Vic isn’t cherished as he should be, for his mastery of “tonation and phrasing,” but his vocalized range, his soulful use of vibrato, his balancing the blues and wit . . . there should be statues of Vic Dickenson!
What comes next seems from another world, with all respects to the very excellent drummer Graham — a lengthy CARAVAN, with some reflections of Jo Jones. Appropriately.
It is a varied half-hour, and viewers will have their favorite moments, as I do. But we owe thanks to our YouTube friend (details below) for sharing this with us, and (even before this) French television for having the foresight to record such gatherings . . . against the day when the giants would no longer honor us with their presence.
The begetter of this slice of delicious French television,”belltele1,” on YouTube, seems to have a special key to the treasure chest of jazz video rarities. In a half-hour of casual browsing, I saw Eldridge, Brubeck, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bechet, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Monk, Rollins, Mingus, Teddy Buckner, Louis, Jonah Jones, Ellington, Basie — the marvels are there for the viewing. And he offers DVDs of the programs . . . .
Ask any musician, “Tell me about Joe Wilder,” and watch the warm smile that immediately emerges. He’s a rare being — generous in person and in his music, warm and caring, whether the horn is up to his lips or he’s chatting over lunch, in a cab, or at an airport. There’s no division between the public man and the private one: both are genuinely loving, open individuals.
I met him in person perhaps thirty years ago at an outdoor concert in Glen Cove, New York. Joe travels in the best company, so he was playing in a little band with Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, Phil Bodner, and perhaps Bobby Rosengarden. And I’ve gotten to know him better by seeing him at Jazz at Chautauqua for the past six years. Joe never forgets a friend or a kindness, so although he knows thousands of people, he remembered me kindly.
I had heard Joe on records for a long time — the golden arching phrases of his Columbia records of the Fifties, the warm balletic phrases of his Savoy session, his more recent work for the Evening Star and Arbors labels.
But this was the first year I really accomplished what I’d hoped to do — catch Joe in performance with groups of his friends. And here are two examples of Mr. Wilder’s subtle magic — in company with Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, bass; John Von Ohlen, drums — as he approaches two familiar jazz standards, making them brand-new by his delight in playing. Keith had his back to me, but he was grinning — and you can see the delight on the faces of Frank and John as well.
Joe’s style is a wonderful mixture of the singing embrace of a melody — great ringing “lead” playing that would point the way for a big band or a symphonic trumpet section — mixed with a dancing harmonic and rhythmic subtlety worthy of the great modernists that would be impossible to notate. Joe loves to play with what he’s given, and he is a born experimenter.
He took great delight in something that I’d written in CODA: that I could hear him in solos getting into what other musicians would think of as traps or dead-ends, and then getting himself out without creasing his clothes. His solos sound like the conversation of someone bursting with ideas whose straight-ahead expositions are always full of thoughtful, witty parentheses.
And you can hear his whimsical embellishment at work on these songs, as if he was constantly amusing himself by testing his artistic ingenuity: “Can I get this rapid-fire reference to THE CONTINENTAL in this phrase and get out again without messing up in relation to the rapidly moving chords under me? Wow, I can and I could! What’s next?” He’s always thinking while he’s playing, and his solos aren’t formulaic arrangements of familiar modules laid end to end.
Here he is, dancing around HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES:
And being the perfect gentleman escorting that SATIN DOLL:
By the way: did I mention that Joe Wilder was born February 22, 1922?
Don’t let the numbers fool you: he has the youngest and biggest heart I know — and he never closes it off to the music or to us.
Before my time, Long Island was a hotbed of jazz — Miff Mole was born in Freeport, and there were thriving colonies of jazz musicians in Queens: Louis, of course, in Corona; James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Milt Hinton, Roy Eldridge and many others. Red Allen had a steady gig at the Blue Spruce Inn in Roslyn.
When I first became aware of jazz, like love, it was just around the corner. Louis and the All-Stars came to the Island Garden in Hempstead in 1967; I saw Jimmy McPartland, Vic Dickenson, Joe Wilder, Milt Hinton, Dick Hyman, Buddy Tate, Jo Jones, Dill Jones, Budd Johnson, Connie Kay, and Teddy Wilson in concerts, usually free ones in the parks. Teddy, Roy Eldridge, Wilbur Little, and Joe Farrell played hour-long gigs in the shopping center Roosevelt Field in 1972. The International Art of Jazz had wonderful concerts — I remember a quartet of Ruby Braff, Derek Smith, George Duvivier, and Bobby Rosengarden. Ray Nance did a week in a club in Hicksville!
Some years later, a traditional jazz society whose name now escapes me held concerts in Babylon, with Peter Ecklund, Dan Barrett, Joe Muranyi, Marty Grosz, and others. Nancy Mullen told me of evenings when Ecklund would show up in a little Port Jefferson spot and play beautifully. Sonny’s Place, in Seaford, had name jazz players for years.
Now, I know that most of the musicians I’ve listed above are dead. Try as I might, I can’t make Red Allen come back to Roslyn. But I wonder: Is there any Mainstream jazz on Long Island? Could it be that it has retreated utterly to safer urban refuges? I would be grateful for any information on some place(s) where the band strikes up a familiar melody to improvise on. It could even be “Satin Doll,” although I would hope for better.
Or has the region I live in given itself over completely to cellphone stores, nail salons, and highways? Say it ain’t so, Jo (Jones, that is).
Mona Hinton, Milt’s widow, died yesterday at 89 after a long illness. Those are the spare facts. Here are three stories:
When Milt was a rather exuberant young musician, Mona made him behave himself, save his money, take care of business. Irene Leeman, married for years to the great (and under-acknowledged) drummer Cliff, said recently, “Mona was always pushing and encouraging Milt. ‘Get out there, Judge, and sing that song. Take another solo, Judge.'” Milt was a wonderful player and warm personality, but Mona’s loving prodding no doubt made him the beloved public figure he was.
My good friend Stu Zimny, a fine bass player who took a few lessons (and a good deal of on-the-spot spiritual guidance) from Milt, told me about being the happy recipient of Milt and Mona’s generosity. And, he has emphasized more than once, her fried chicken was delicious, her portions generous.
When I saw Milt at an outdoor concert in 1981 in Glen Cove, New York (he was with Dick Hyman, Joe Wilder, Phil Bodner, and Bobby Rosengarden) I asked him, “Where’s Mona?” not seeing her anywhere. With some amusement, Milt said, “Oh, man, she’s heard all my shit already.”
People like Mona — loving, generous — should always be celebrated. We’ll miss her!