Tag Archives: Bobcats

VISIONS OF NEW ORLEANS, MADE REAL (Part One): KRIS TOKARSKI, TIM LAUGHLIN, and HAL SMITH at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 31, 2016)

At the 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival, I didn’t see the double rainbows that were so magnificent at the 2014 celebration — but they were musically evident whenever the Kris Tokarski Trio took the stage.

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

The extent of my devotion to this group was evident to anyone who saw me following them around, a happy man, breathing hard because of the altitude and the excitement in equal measure, with video camera and tripod.  They played eight sets; I caught seven.

The Trio is Kris Tokarski, piano; Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Hal Smith, drums. It’s a trio that balances deep seriousness and lighter-than-air play.  Its music is tangible but translucent: you hear the whole but admire the individual voices twining together.  Think of Casals, Thibaud, Cortot.  Simeon, James P., and Pops Foster.  Benny, Teddy, and Dave Tough.  Singing lyricism, floating swing.

And they did the thing I prize most, which is to honor the tradition by being themselves.  Heaven knows each of these players knows the clearly-delineated tradition — on records, in performance with other musicians, studying the Masters in person — but they know (to quote Emerson) that imitation is suicide and (to quote Lester) you must go for yourself.

I was telling a friend about a favorite Roddy Doyle novel, THE VAN, about two Irish friends who open a mobile fish-and-chips business, and their proud slogan is “Today’s chips today,” which is what I think of when I hear these performances: nothing warmed up under heat lamps, nothing stale.  Music that’s truly alive in now.

Here is the first half of this Trios’s closing set of the Festival (I am working backwards), recorded in a church with wonderful acoustics.  Kris chose to make this set a New Orleanian one, with gracious hot results.

JAZZ ME BLUES (for the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, then Bix, then the Bobcats and Condon and and and:

SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART (no doubt a Morton tune, and I come from the school that places a comma in the middle; it makes better dramatic sense):

THAT DA DA STRAIN, from Mamie Smith onwards to us in 2016:

BOGALUSA STRUT, a nod to the Sam Morgan ensemble:

What wonderful music.  You can bet there will be more.

May your happiness increase!

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DREAMS COME TRUE: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, DOUG FINKE, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH (San Diego Jazz Fest, Nov. 30, 2014)

In the early nineteen-thirties, Edgar Sampson (alto saxophone, composer, arranger, lyricist) wrote an irresistible song which he called IF DREAMS COME TRUE.  Benny Goodman’s name is on the sheet music, but I take that as evidence of the repellent practice of bandleaders and stars “cutting themselves in” on royalties for a composition they had nothing to do with in exchange for performing it and recording it.  Many beautiful recordings of this song — James P. Johnson’s, Billie Holiday’s, and Chick Webb’s come to mind.

Here is a contemporary version by some Masters of their Art (my posting inspired by Scott Ricketts) recorded on November 30, 2014, at the San Diego Jazz Fest — Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Doug Finke, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

To me, it is the very epitome of floating swing lyricism — a leisurely cross-pollination of the Bobcats and a Teddy Wilson small group, a triumph of sweet individualism in this century:

I have only one problem with the song’s title, and it is a semantic one.  The song exists in the fragile realm of the doubtful, the conditional.  Dreams may come true but we aren’t at all sure.  Even changing it to WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE puts the happy consummation somewhere in the indistinct future.

Let’s be bold.  When Connie and Tim lead this band, DREAMS COME TRUE.  I will brook no arguments on this.  I know that they did and do for me, and for many in the audience.

May your happiness increase!

 

IS YOUR DREAMBOAT AT HOME?

If, by this time, you are a little weary of FROSTY THE SNOWMAN and the remainder of the winter-holiday songbook, may I suggest this as an aesthetic panacea? 

It’s Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, recorded by Rae Ann Berry on December 20, 2009, at Pismo Beach, performing WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME.  Clint’s happy colleagues are Marc Caparone, trumpet; Dave Caparone, trombone; Mike Baird, alto sax; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano and vocal; Katie Cavera, banjo; Mike Fay, bass; Hal Smith, drums.  Highlights for me are the friendly two-teumpet conversation at the start.  Clint then shifts to trombone so that he and Dave can be a full section; Mike Baird sounds remarkably like Cap’n John Handy on alto; Carl shouts the vocal most endearingly, and that rhythm section rocks — at a tempo that’s not too slow and not too fast, either.

This clip led me into half an hour of etymological research into “dreamboat,” with the lexicographers getting the meanings right — the adored one or something that is adorable — but no one noticed that the song above was a hit in 1935 (music by Dave Franklin, lyrics by Cliff Friend).  Whether lyric writers invent new idioms or they simply make effective use of them in their songs, I wouldn’t say, but having Bing Crosby record this tune for Decca meant that it came into the public consciousness — with versions by Jimmy Rushing with the Basie band, the Bob Crosby Bobcats, Tommy Dorsey, and even Fats Domino, Benda Lee, and Cliff Richard (!) to follow.

Whatever one might make of the etymology, I send the best romantic wishes to all my readers.  May your dreamboat be close at hand, now and always.  And if you are temporarily dreamboat-lacking, may (s)he come to you in 2010 or even earlier!

Postscripts: the American and British sheet music covers, (where “dream boat” is two words), to inspire you:

NEW ORLEANS HOT SAUCE!

I’m not offering a splendidly energizing bottle of cayenne peppers and vinegar — but its musical equivalent, designed to make everything taste better. 

Here, courtesy of Rae Ann Barry, roving videographer, are performances by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, recorded live on December 20, 2009, at the monthly jazz party of the Basin Street Regulars in Pismo Beach, California. 

The eloquent down-home players are Clint Baker, trombone, trumpet, and bass; Marc Caparone, trumpet; Mike Baird, clarinet; Carl “Sonny” Leyland; Mike Fay, bass; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar, vocal; Hal Smith, drums, and two surprises.

PANAMA (not PANAMA RAG) is where Stompy Jones — and STOMPY JONES — come from.  Not only is this song often played too fast; some of its strains are left out or forgotten by bands eager to get to the familiar refrain.  Clint’s band knows all the ins and outs, and the tempo is just right.  Catch Hal Smith’s tom-tom accents and his homage to Zutty and Baby Dodds!  Marc sounds like a very hip Joe Oliver . . . perhaps a King Joe who had lived on to play more in 1938.  And Rae Ann is intrepid indeed, never flinching away from what must have been perilous proximity to those umbrellas.  (Note to self: Call to find cost of liability insurance for jazz videographers.)

And here’s BIG CHIEF BATTLE AX, a song — with several strains — that Bunk Johnson loved to play, in a performance that lets everyone romp, with special praise for Carl’s righteous piano.  I tried to find the lyrics, but only come up with the wonderful sheet music cover.  Can anyone help?:

UP JUMPED THE DEVIL reminds me of DO WHAT ORY SAY with a dash of SISTER KATE (or GET OFF KATIE’S HEAD, if you prefer) stirred in at the end.  But what I find captivating — aside from Marc’s fervent lead throughout, is the wonderful ensemble rock: not faster, not louder, just cumulatively intensifying:

And a delightful surprise — one of my favorite singers, Dawn Lambeth, comes to sing ALWAYS, first as it was written, and then courtesy of Mr. Leyland, as a Fifties boogie.  Watch Dawn sway happily as Marc aims for the stars (and gets there)!  And Mike Baird takes a few Pee Wee Russell turns.  I love Dawn’s third chorus — she’s subtle but she really improvises:

CANAL STREET BLUES takes on a different flavor with Clint switching to trumpet and Marc’s father, the estimable Dave Caparone, coming in on trombone.  Dave is a renowned winemaker, but I first admired him not for his big reds, but because he could sound like Benny Morton — a great virtue!  You can hear a bit of his neat Thirties glide here.  Love that rhythm section!:

And a neat change of pace: Katie Cavera brings her guitar and sweet voice for the late-Twenties version of “Shut up and kiss me!” — DO SOMETHING, with the band coming together in a great loose way as the performance proceeds, the hot honors going to Clint at the start:

MARYLAND, MY MARYLAND (turned into MARCH OF THE BOB CATS by the Crosby-ites) has the benefit of a fine trombone section.  Mike Baird makes me think of HIGH SOCIETY, and Katie swings out most musically.  Let’s hear it for Hal’s melodic snare-drum chorus, and also for the red-shirted man who gives Rae Ann an astonished look the first time he walks in front of her lens.  Maybe he had forgotten his umbrella?  If that closing ensemble doesn’t move you, perhaps you need cayenne peppers:

More information from:
www.pismojazz.com
www.clintbakerjazz.com
sfraeann@comcast.net

Thanks to all the spicy, expert roisterers!

COPYRIGHT, MICHAEL STEINMAN AND JAZZ LIVES, 2009
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Steinman and Jazz Lives with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MARTY GROSZ IN THE GROOVE! (Chautauqua 2009)

It was Friday night at Jazz at Chautauqua — September 2009.  The crowd was still working on their late dinners and drinks, chatting with the people they hadn’t seen since last year, when Marty Grosz and his Esteemed Esthetes of Swing (my name, not his) took the stand in the Athenaeum ballroom.  Before he began one of the performances, he took a long time scat-singing the tempo he wanted, and when someone must have looked quizzically at him, he said, earnestly, “It’s the groove.  Gotta find that groove!” which the band did, as the four performances that follow will show.  The distinguished participants: Duke Heitger, Bob Havens, Dan Block, Keith Ingham, Vince Giordano, and Arnie Kinsella.

They began (Marty’s vocal nearly obscured by the crowd chatter) with Bill Robinson’s DOIN’ THE NEW LOW DOWN, resulting in many dancing feet in the audience, although everyone as far as I know remained seated:

Next, an Isham Jones composition, which begins in the best Castillian manner, recalling the Bob Crosby Bobcats, SPAIN:

In memory of Louis Armstrong, J. C. Higginbotham, and Sidney Catlett, Marty suggested I DOUBLE DARE YOU:

Finally, a medium-tempo exploration of one of the oldest of the Old Favorites, BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?

Everything that enlightened jazz listeners could want: hot solos, keen tunes, singing that harks back to Fats and Red McKenzie, a Basie rhythm-section passage, an eloquent bass sax solo, head arrangements and more.  Stirring stuff, no?