Tag Archives: Bria Skonberg

AN ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE NOT TO BE MISSED: MONA’S HOT FOUR AND FRIENDS! (Tuesday, December 11, 2012: Rockwood Music Hall, New York City)

With all due respect to every other gig, concert, club date that I have agitated for in the past few posts, I feel that if you miss this one . . . well, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY.

Can I be any less subtle?

Because I have a day gig that starts rather early, I have been to Mona’s, the long narrow rectangular club in the Extreme East Village (that’s Greenwich Village, New York City) exactly twice.  Once I had a very good time listening to the band, and the second time it was already so crowded that I couldn’t squeeze myself in.  But the Tuesday-late-night / early-Wednesday morning jam sessions are legendary.  They feature a band called MONA’S HOT FOUR — Dennis Lichman, clarinet; Gordon Webster, piano; Jared Engel, string bass; Nick Russo, guitar / banjo.  But everyone who’s anyone in the New York hot jazz scene has made an appearance at Mona’s, and the immense joy / hilarity / heat have become mythic.

For those of you saying, “I can’t go to a weekday gig that starts after 11 PM,” I sympathize.  But Dennis Lichtman is riding to the rescue on behalf of people who have to go to work and people who couldn’t shoehorn themselves into Mona’s.

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On Tuesday, December 11, 2012:  Mona’s Hot Four will be having a CD/DVD release party / concert / ecstatic gathering at Rockwood Music Hall (Allen and Houston Streets in the East Village) at 8 PM, continuing until 9:15.

The Hot Four will be there with special guests: Tamar Korn, Emily Asher, Gordon Au, Mike Davis, and many more great musicians.   Admission is $10.

Those who don’t have to be awake early on Wednesday may continue the celebration after the show at Mona’s (Avenue B between 14th & 15th Street, beginning at 11 PM and going until 3:30 AM at the least.

Now, just in case you might be wondering, “How does Michael get to be so sure that an ecstatic jazz experience awaits those voyagers bold enough to get themselves to Allen and Houston Streets?”  I have been listening over and over to the CD while driving to work and everywhere else.  And the other drivers are, I am sure, more than a little puzzled at the man in the aging Toyota who is grinning and laughing and pounding the steering wheel in swingtime.

If the music at the Rockwood Music Hall is anywhere as elating as the CD, it will be a seventy-five minute set to remember, to tell the imaginary grandchildren.  Here’s some information about the CD, which contains these tracks: MY BLUE HEAVEN / CHANT IN THE NIGHT / TIGER RAG / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO / LAZY RIVER / FIDGETY FEET / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / AVALON / SUGAR BLUES / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.

In addition to MH4, there are guest appearances from Emily Asher, Ehud Asherie, Gordon Au, Bob Curtis, Mike Davis, Jim Fryer, J. Walter Hawkes, Tamar Korn, David Langlois, Dan Levinson, David McKay, Andrew Nemr, Jerron Paxton, Nathan Pick, Molly Ryan, Bria Skonberg, Dave Speranza, Chris St. Hilaire, and Miss Tess.

All I can say is that these recorded performances rank easily with the best music I have heard in New York City since I ventured out of my cocoon in May 2004.  I am still grinning at the sounds stuck happily in my memory from this CD.

And there’s more — a professionally-done DVD documentary (slightly less than twenty minutes) about the scene at Mona’s.  I have held off watching this on my computer because it will be shown on December 11.

The Beloved, a few years ago, taught me something about “non-violent communication,” which is a soulful way of expressing yourself without pushing your wishes on anyone.  So rather than saying, “If you miss this, you’re nuts,” or “You should go to this gig if you want some extra added pleasure,” I will say only, “Would you be willing to consider the idea of this evening?  I think it will make you very happy.”  And I do.  My idea of absolute bliss, of course, is this: attend Rockland Music Hall.  Buy CD / DVDs in plural, keep one, give the rest as gifts, support the music and the musicians who do so much for us.

Here’s the Facebook link.  Look for me there (and say “Hello!” after).

And if you live far away or are tied to some responsibility on Dec. 11, you can order the CD / DVD package here.

May your happiness increase.

CELEBRATE DAN MORGENSTERN’S 83rd BIRTHDAY AT BIRDLAND (Wednesday, October 24, 2012)

I know some people think birthday celebrations are silly.  The cake isn’t good for us; HAPPY BIRTHDAY is only eight bars long and most musicians feel trapped when it’s requested.  And some of us feel, “Gee, I’m too old for a paper hat and . . . where will they put all those candles?”

But I think that birthdays are a good thing.  The Beloved had one recently, and it was very sweet.  And — after all — isn’t it just our way of saying, “We are SO glad you are here?”  Who could argue with those sentiments?

So I want to let everyone know that this coming Wednesday, David Ostwald and the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band will be celebrating Dan Morgenstern’s eighty-third birthday in the best way . . . by playing hot jazz for him at Birdland from 5:30 to 7:15 PM.  

The participants?  Bria Skonberg, trumpet (and no doubt vocals); Dan Block, clarinet and alto sax; Jim Fryer, trombone (ditto the above); James Chirillo, banjo; David Ostwald, tuba and commentary; Marion Felder, drums.  And I’ll bet a blue-label sunburst Decca of THANKS A MILLION that there will be other musicians in the house who want to make their love for Dan public and resonant.

If you have to ask who Dan Morgenstern is, I don’t think you’ve been taking careful notes: scholar, lover of all sorts of good music, archivist, writer . . . and friend of the best.  His liner notes educated so many of us and pointed us in the right directions, and he keeps on keeping on.

Birdland is at 315 West 44th Street and my guess is that the room will be full — so call 212.581.3080 to make sure there’s a place for you.  

I can’t be there (I will be at Kennedy Airport, boarding the plane to Newcastle, UK, for the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — Marcia Salter will stand in for me!) but perhaps one or two of my readers could come up to Dan and say, “JAZZ LIVES sent me.”  That would be a great treat.  (Or, if you don’t like that one, just tell him, “I found out about Hot Lips Page because of you.”)

And — what’s a birthday without a present?  Spare Dan the socks or the cufflinks.  Just send him our love.  And this:

May your happiness increase.

BABY SODA JAZZ BAND “AT THE HIGHLINE” (LIVE AND IN PERSON, Oct. 15, 2012)

Yesterday, I wrote a very approving review of the new CD by the BABY SODA JAZZ BAND, which found them at Radegast in Brooklyn with a variety of players including Kevin V. Louis, Jared Engel, Kevin Dorn, Adrian Cunningham, Emily Asher, and Peter Ford —  with guest appearances by Bria Skonberg, Will Anderson, Satoru Ohashi, and Ed Polcer.  Here’s  my blogpost.  (In retrospect, I am sorry that I didn’t call it THAT’S SOME BABY, but it’s too late to change the title.)

Last Monday, October 15, it was raining vigorously in New York City, but I had found out that Baby Soda was going to be playing at the Highline — a combination difficult to resist.  I packed my umbrella and appropriate shoes and headed west.  Oh, I also brought my video camera, tripod, and trusty notebook.  Thus, some fine new performances by Baby Soda . . . for your dining, dancing, and listening pleasure.

Peter Ford led the band from his one-string box bass (which he plays magnificently) and he sang with a sweet, focused surge; Gordon Au played soaring trumpet solos with every risk-taking note in place; Will Anderson built logical clarinet choruses, phrase upon sweet-toned phrase; Emily Asher held it all together with lovely terse trombone lines, then told us the truth when it was her time to solo or sing; Jared Engel kept the rhythm going on both plectrum banjo and lowboy cymbal . . . and the front line passed around one drumstick and a magic woodblock for spare but swinging rhythmic effects.

I don’t ordinarily post incomplete performances . . . but the second half of MUSKRAT RAMBLE was so satisfying that here it is:

As an acknowledgment of the general sogginess, Peter sang I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS — an overstatement, for the band was making people very happy:

ONCE IN A WHILE is, of course, the Louis Hot Five romp:

WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP, mixing nostalgia, romance, and botany, provoked an almost-band vocal (a power-packed two minutes!):

I GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES might have been true, but the band seemed happy to play this melancholy Arlen song:

MILENBERG JOYS — at a brimming tempo, never too fast:

MARIE, warbled by the eminent Miss Asher:

THAT’S A-PLENTY for sure:

JUST A LITTLE WHILE TO STAY HERE, that jazz carpe diem, was not the end of the world:

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS — with no need to grumble about this band:

I went off after this session feeling so elated — Gene Kelly with a knapsack full of heavy video gear, very happy.  Baby Soda can do that to you!  And these performances sound as good at the eighth or ninth playing as they do at the first. I guarantee this.

May your happiness increase.

BABY SODA “LIVE AT RADEGAST” (ON COMPACT DISC)

Although the name BABY SODA conjures up weird visions of toddlers working their way through quart-sized paper cups of Diet Coke (tell me it’s all a dream?), the BABY SODA JAZZ BAND has no artificial ingredients and Science has shown that their joyous music extends rather than shortens human life.  Here’s a recent sample — JAZZ ME BLUES from Stompology in Rochester, New York, recorded this June:

Their most recent disc is a delightful encapsulation of their essence.  For those of my readers who doubt that they will get to the Radegast Bierhalle in Brooklyn any time soon, this disc can act as an effective flying carpet.  For those familiar with the delights to be found there, this disc — with equally magic powers — can make a night at Radegast portable . . . compressing the whole experience so that it can reverberate through your earbuds or car audio system.

The music was recorded live on June 29, 2011, by an all-star cast: Emily Asher, trombone, vocal; Adrian Cunningham, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Kevin Dorn, drums; Jared Engel, plectrum banjo; Peter Ford, box string bass, vocal; Kevin V. Louis, cornet, vocals . . . and guests Will Anderson, clarinet; Satoru Ohashi, trumpet; Ed Polcer, cornet; Bria Skonberg, trumpet.  The songs are YOU RASCAL YOU / WEARY BLUES / MARDI GRAS IN NEW ORLEANS / JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE / WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP / WININ’ BOY BLUES / JOSHUA FIT THE BATTLE OF JERICHO / PALM COURT STRUT / SUGAR / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART / GLORY GLORY.

Now, I know that some readers — looking at the song list and not knowing many of the musicians — might sniff derisively and think, “Oh, New York Dixieland — the same routines I heard, better, in 1956 / 1971 / whenever.”  Wrong.  Sorry, but Wrong.

Most of the musicians in this band (with the exception of the Senior Ambassador, Mister Polcer) are still within hailing distance of their thirties, and they approach this music with a good deal of expert enthusiasm and precise vigor.  They have heard the records but they are going for themselves, which is always a good thing.  So rather than this being a routine gathering of players who can do BOURBON STREET PARADE in their sleep, this session conjures up much of the joyous unbridled energy of a New Orleans street band in this century.  It isn’t Jazz By The Numbers.  There is good humor, lyricism, and a deep understanding of jazz as a dance music with cadences designed to make Grandma get up and Shake That Thing.

For more information and delight, visit the BABY SODA homepage.  And if you would like to buy the music in MP3 form, here is the link to do just that.

As a colleague of mine says (it’s her highest accolade), THEY ROCK.

May your happiness increase.

DID SOMEONE SAY A PARTY? (Yes, JEFF and JOEL!)

I don’t want to suggest that Artie Shaw will be playing music anywhere soon, nor that my women readers should aspire to the Petty Girl . . . but this phrase is apt:

I have always thought that musicians play their very best when the surrounding environment is relaxed and they feel that they are among friends.  This isn’t to say that clubs, concerts, parties, and festivals are bad — perish the thought.  But some of the most uplifting music I’ve ever heard has been at house concerts, where the musicians are actually in someone’s living room, playing for appreciative friends.

This October 13-14 (Saturday and Sunday), pianist / singer Jeff Barnhart and banjoist Joel Schiavone are holding another JEFF AND JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY at Joel and Donna’s beautiful 1804 farmhouse in Guilford, Connecticut.

There’s only good news to follow.  The musicians are Joel Schiavone, Jeff Barnhart, Paul Monat, Pam Pameijer, Noel Kaletsky, Genevieve Rose, Ross Petot, Fred Vigorito, John Clark, Craig Grant, Bob Barta, Sal Ranniello . . . and two up-and-coming New Yorkers — young fellows with bright futures in the music business, Vince Giordano and Jim Fryer.  To read the biographies of the players, click here.

There are three sessions: Saturday 11-4, Saturday 5-10, and Sunday 11-4.  The afternoon sessions include lunch or brunch; the Saturday evening set will include dinner.  The liquid portion of the house party is up to you (a roundabout way of saying it’s BYOB, but there will be all the necessary improvements).

I will be there, but in an unusual capacity — sans video camera, actually able to use both hands to applaud — because this House Party has the great jazz cinematographer Eric Devine behind the cameras.  (Note the plural.)  So I’ll be able to relax, although I will report on the festivities when I return to New York. Tickets are on sale now — for single sessions as well as for the two-day fiesta, so don’t wait!  Click here  for pricing and ordering and all those needful things.  Tickets for the whole extravaganza are $225; individual sessions are $80.

I’m expecting that this will be a Jazz Band Ball!

Here’s some delicious video evidence from the first House Party — February 2012 — Bria Skonberg and Jeff Barnhart duetting on a lovely Django Reinhardt song, JE SUIS SEUL CE SOIR (I’M ALONE TONIGHT):

May your happiness increase.

EMILY ASHER’S DREAMS TAKE US ALOFT

Something good.  And about time!  It’s trombonist / singer / composer / arranger / bandleader Emily Asher’s debut CD, sweetly titled DREAMS MAY TAKE YOU.

Along with Emily, you will hear Wycliffe Gordon, on sousaphone and trombone; Bria Skonberg, trumpet, vocal; Philip Dizack, trumpet; Dan Levinson, tenor sax, clarinet; William Anderson, alto sax; Nick Russo, guitar, banjo; Gordon Webster, piano; Kelly Friesen, bass; Rob Adkins, bass; Kevin Dorn, drums; Rob Garcia, drums.  For those of you familiar with the hot New York scene, those names are a guarantee of fine swinging inventive jazz.

Much of the repertoire would appear to be “good old good ones,” including SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET and SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, but the CD is anything but by-the-numbers.  Emily is more than a fine trombonist and a sweetly winning singer: she is an imaginative musician, so the CD doesn’t bog down in the same thing; every track is its own vignette.

It begins with a romping version of ORY’S CREOLE TROMBONE, which Emily delivers with a fine gutty fervor (and her own version of a trombone cadenza).  The soloists share Emily’s high-flying enthusiasm, and the rhythm sections couldn’t be better.  So the chestnuts have a delightful 2012 Condonite bounce and looseness.  The CD’s title comes from an Asher original — by Emily’s father — called LULLABY FOR A LITTLE ONE, on which Miss Asher sings with winsome charm.  (And she knows when to leave an audience wanting more: the LULLABY is a delicious cameo, slightly over two minutes.)  It’s followed by a New Orleans “second line” version of CHANGES MADE, which would cause the sedentary to start dancing.  The original SWEET PEA is part cowboy-ballad, part rocking barcarolle, with touches of Fifties West Coast cool arranging.  HEY, LOOK ME OVER is Emily’s childhood party piece — which begins in an easy waltz-time before morphing into sleek swing — that won me over when I saw her do it (with apt choreography) at Radegast.  A streamlined EMPEROR NORTON’S HUNCH has shed all its two-beat trappings, and bursts forth gracefully.  SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET features the duet stylings of Asher and Skonberg — neatly warbling the hip variations I associate with John Birks Gillespie — before the ensemble gives way to a piano / trombone duet.  Emily’s original GREAT BIG WALL will be the only song you know (I would guess) that mixes Latin rhythms and Middle Eastern tonalities.  Successfully, I must add.  YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE begins with a slide guitar / trombone duet and then blossoms, lyrically.  MUSKRAT RAMBLE begins with the Hot Five introduction and rocks from the first note (not too slow, not too fast, either) — with a splendidly tapping drum solo by Kevin Dorn in the middle.  SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, taken at a brisk clip, is another trombone-piano outing, very delicate in its earnestness, with a straight-from-the-shoulder vocal by Emily, taking the lyrics with a gentle seriousness that would have pleased its creator.  And the disc ends with LIMEHOUSE BLUES, a version that had the energy of the World’s Greatest Jazz Band of fabled memory.

Nothing’s dull or forced on this CD: it’s one of those rare creations where you want to play it over again when it ends.

I couldn’t attend Emily’s May 29 CD release party at Radegast — a true Garden Party, I hear — but the CD is its own jubilant party.  You can purchase one here — either as a digital download or a physical CD.

And the GP will be strolling around the New Jersey Jazz Society’s JAZZFEST on Saturday, June 16, which begins at noon and ends at 9 PM.  And when Emily and company need a rest, you can hear Jon Burr,  Lynn Stein, Andy Farber’s Swing Mavens featuring Champian Fulton, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, the Tony DeSare trio, Eddie Monteiro, Swingadelic, and more.  Tickets can be ordered at 908.273.7827 or online at http://www.njjs.org.

Look out, world: here she comes!

May your happiness increase.

SHALL WE RAMBLE? (The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, May 20, 2012)

In the land of Creative Improvised Music — let’s avoid the narrow little definitions for a moment* — all sorts of delightful cross-pollinations take place.  In this wonderful performance of MUSKRAT RAMBLE that you are about to hear and see, of course the guiding spirits are Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory, Chicago, 1926 . . . but I hear a delightful simultaneous current of the Kansas City Six, 1938: Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Buck Clayton, Walter Page.  See if you don’t agree.

The living creators playing MUSKRAT are, of course, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Scott Robinson, metal clarinet; James Chirillo, guitar; Kelly Friesen, string bass.

Thank you, beloved EarRegulars, for filling the air so beautifully!

May your happiness increase.

*About those “definitions.”  Some listeners like their cozy boxes.  “I only listen to “Trad.” “Mainstream.” “New Orleans.”  What difference does the name make if the music lifts you up?  On my recent trip to the Sacramento Music Festival, I was suggesting to a new friend that she go to see one of my favorite bands, the Reynolds Brothers.  “Oh,” she said, “I don’t know them.  Are they Dixieland?”  I smiled and said the first thing that came to me, “Gee, I don’t use that word.”  I doubt that my reply acted as an effective inducement to hear the band, but I didn’t want to start defining terms . . . not while there was actual music to be heard.

“A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL”: EMILY ASHER’S GARDEN PARTY at RADEGAST (Sept. 27, 2011)

Emily Asher certainly knows how to throw a party.  And her brilliance isn’t a matter of laying in huge quantities of blue corn chips and IPA, nor is it because of those cookies she bakes.  In fact, Emily comes to the party with little except her trombone, some sheet music, and her insistence that everyone have a good time and swing.

She accomplishes this nicely — and she’s also one of those musicians who seems to be growing and developing before our eyes . . . not that she was a novice when I first encountered her!

For her midweek session at the Radegast Bierhalle in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Emily assembled her “Garden Party,” a hot band despite its refined UK title.  This version had our Ms. Asher on trombone / vocals; Bria Skonberg on trumpet / vocals; Dan Levinson on clarinet / tenor; Kelly Friesen on string bass; Nick Russo on banjo / guitar; Kevin Dorn on drums.  And since it was a Wednesday during the two-week Dan Barrett Celebratory East Coast Tour, Dan came uptown from his earlier gig with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band and brought the fiery clarinetist Pete Martinez with him.

Here are a goodly handful of video performances from that night at Radegast.  Expert dancing provided by Sam Huang and Michelle DeCastro — other dancers unidentified.

The Garden Party began with something fierce and New Orleanian — Jelly Roll Morton’s MILENBERG JOYS:

Then, the hot yet admonitory SOME OF THESE DAYS, with a Charleston beat:

Emily very sweetly offered a slow waltz-time HEY, LOOK ME OVER! — commenting that her father had taught her the song when she was three, and she retains some of the choreography from her childhood.  I find it absolutely charming.  (Thanks, Dad!):

And a perennial: ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

I was embarrassed by my ignorance, having no idea of what this song was — but Emily told me in a kind way that it was EMPEROR NORTON’S HUNCH.  I think I have to take Remedial Turk Murphy over the summer:

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW featured a harmonized vocal chorus from Emily and Bria, who remain our sweethearts:

For the last few numbers of the third set, Dan Barrett and Pete Martinez joined in (up until this point, they had been enjoying the sounds) on an energetic but not-too-fast MUSKRAT RAMBLE (beginnig a compact Louis-tribute, but all jazz is a Louis-tribute, isn’t it?):

Dan borrowed Bria’s trumpet for a nifty BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, and I thought, “Where else on the planet could I hear Louis’ 1926 chorus played with such accuracy and fervor?”:

And we close this visit to Emily’s wonderful party with a sweet ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, with Bria back on trumpet and Dan on trombone, trading phrases:

Wonderful!  And if you get on Emily’s email list (visit her site at http://www.emilyasher.com.) you can find out when the next party is — as well as learning about her upcoming CD, which needs your support:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/712404112/emily-ashers-debut-cd-featuring-garden-party-and-e

DAN BARRETT COMES EAST (September – October 2011)

To quote Henry Nemo, “‘Tis autumn,” and one of the more rewarding manifestations of that season is the annual Dan Barrett Comes East tour.  The inimitable Costa Mesa, California trombonist, cornetist, arranger, composer, pianist, singer, comes to this coast for a series of what have proven memorable gigs.

Thursday – Sunday, Sept. 15-18: Dan at Chautauqua Jazz Party, Chautauqua, New York (http://athenaeum-hotel.com/Jazz-at-Chautauqua/)

Monday, Sept. 19: Dan at Arthur’s Tavern, with Bill Dunham’s Grove Street Stompers (Grove Street & 7th Ave South; 7-10 pm)

Tuesday, Sept. 20: Dan in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with Howard Alden & Frank Tate (details to follow)

Wednesday, Sept. 21: Dan at Birdland with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band (5:30-7:15 pm): see http://www.ostwaldjazz.com/live/ for details.  Dan will be joined by Bria Skonberg (trumpet), Vinny Raniolo (banjo and guitar), Marion Felder (drums) and others.

Sunday, Sept. 25: a double-header!  Dan will join Terry Waldo’s band at Fat Cat (77 Christopher Street), from 5:45 to 8 pm).  Then, Dan will go south and west for an evening at the Ear Inn, with Evan Christopher, Matt Munisteri, and New York’s finest, immediately after that (8-11 pm)

Monday, Sept. 26: Dan will again appear alongside Evan Christopher at a concert sponsored by the Sidney Bechet Society, beginning at 7:15 pm.  Evan’s “Clarinet Road” will pay tribute to the Master in “Blues for Bechet.”  Featured guests will include vocalist Catherine Russell, guitar virtuosi Doug Wamble and Matt Munisteri, and LaFrae Sci on drums.  The concert will take place at Symphony Space (95th Street and Broadway), and tickets are available here:

http://www.sidneybechet.org/purchase-tickets/

Tuesday, Sept. 27: Dan will join the brass section — on cornet — of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks at “Club Cache'” — the lower floor of Sofia’s restaurant in the Edison Hotel, 211 West 46th Street.

Wednesday, September 28: Dan will again be part of David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland, from 5:45-7:15 pm, alongside Bria Skonberg, Pete Martinez, Howard Alden, Marion Felder, and others.

Sunday, October 2: Another double-header: Dan at Fat Cat again with Terry Waldo’s band; then on to the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York (8-11 pm)

Monday, October 3: Dan will be part of another Arbors Records event at Feinstein’s at the Regency with singers Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, Lynn Roberts, and Harry Allen’s Quartet (Harry, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, and Chuck Riggs).

Alas and woe for New Yorkers, Dan flies home the next day.  Don’t miss out on the Barrett Comes East tour.  There are, as yet, no plans for souvenir sweatshirts, buttons, or pennants — merely fine jazz and many musical surprises.

And in case you are just discovering Mr. Barrett, here’s some musical evidence — his cornet lights up this August 2011 performance of MY BUDDY, recorded at the JAZZ LIVES party (with John Smith, alto; Vinnie Armstrong, piano; Marc Caparone, bass; Mike Swan, guitar):

TOO GOOD TO IGNORE: CONDON’S WEST: HAL SMITH and FRIENDS at SACRAMENTO (May 29, 2011)

I published this post slightly more than five years ago, and the music remains so delightful that I thought it would be a sin not to offer it to the eager public once again.

hal-6-2011

My title isn’t hyperbole.  For when the band hit the first four bars of LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, I felt as if I had been time-and-space transported to the original Eddie Condon’s on West Third Street . . . even though I’d never been to the actual club.

This was the penultimate set I saw and recorded at the 2011 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, and it was one of the high points.  I had been enjoying Hal Smith’s International Sextet through the Memorial Day weekend, but this version hit not one but many high notes.  The regulars were there in splendid form: Hal on drums, Katie Cavera on guitar and vocals; Anita Thomas on clarinet, alto, and vocals; Kim Cusack on clarinet, tenor, and vocals.  But Clint Baker had shifted from string bass to trombone (sounding incredibly like a gutty evocation of Sandy Williams and Jimmy Harrison, taking tremendous chances throughout), and Austin, Texas, native Ryan Gould played bass.  And — as a special treat — Bria Skonberg joined in on trumpet and vocal.

Here’s what happened.

Hal called LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER (always a pleasant thought), surely inspired by the memory of that famous Commodore session in 1938 with Pee Wee, Bobby, Brunis, Bud, Stacy, Condon, Shapiro, and Wettling: the 2011 band had a similar instrumentation and the same drive:

How about something rocking and multi-lingual for the charming Ms. Skonberg to sing and play — like BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN:

Something for our canine friends?  LOW DOWN DOG, featuring Carl Sonny Leyland, is reminiscent of both Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson — a neat trick!

The next selection — deliciously low-down — poses a philosophical question.  When Katie Cavera sings and plays about SISTER KATE, is it meta-jazz, or M.C. Escher in swingtime?  Puzzle me that.  Anyway, it’s a wonderful performance complete with the tell-it-all verse:

Then a jazz gift from Hal and the band — a POSTCARD TO AUNT IDA, celebrating one of the warmest people we will ever know, Ida Melrose Shoufler of Farmer City, Illinois, the surviving child of Chicago piano legend Frank Melrose, a pianist, singer, and deep-down jazz fan herself — here’s Kim Cusack to tell us all that THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  Today!

Anita told us all how everything would be make-believe if love didn’t work, in IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON:

Then, some hi-jinks.  Jazz and comedy have always gone together, even if Gunther Schuller sneered at “showmanship,” and what follows is hilarious impromptu choreography.  I don’t know which of the happily high-spirited players noticed that this was a two-camera setup (independently, Rae Ann Berry on the band’s right, myself on their left) and said, “Do something for the camera.  So you have Clint exuberantly singing DINAH while the rest of the band plays the most musical of musical chairs:

I’d like to see that video get international exposure: could we start the first (and last) JAZZ LIVES chain letter, where readers send this clip of DINAH to their friends?  The world needs more joy . . .

Finally, Bria sang and played her own version of LULU’S BACK IN TOWN to close off this exultantly satisfying performance:

It was a big auditorium, with advertisements for a Premier Active Adult Community behind the band, but it looked and sounded like the original Eddie Condon’s to me. . . .

HARLEM MAD: GLENN CRYTZER AND HIS SYNCOPATORS

The stuff is here and it’s mellow!

Many jazz musicans present themselves not only as players but as composers, with varying results. 

Seattle-based Glenn Crytzer — guitarist, banjoist, singer — is one of those rare creative beings who beautifully fills both roles.  The evidence is on YouTube, and most recently on a new small-band CD, HARLEM MAD, which presents twenty (count ’em) originals by Glenn, with star turns by Meschiya Lake, Solomon Douglas, and Ray Skjelbred. 

Instead of brooding “compositions” that serve only as jumping-off places for long solos, or thirty-two bar borrowings that take their A section from something familiar and their B from something even more so, Glenn’s songs have real shape and authenticity. 

On HARLEM MAD, you’ll hear a broad variety of performances that could be taken from the archives — unissued takes and masters from 1926 to 1949, from Glenn’s own take on rough-hewn South Side Chicago of the Twenties (Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Bertrand) to cheerfully lopsided jump tunes that nod to Monk as well as Jacquet and Byas. 

And there are vocals as well — for the justly-praised Meschiya Lake, who comes through on this CD as a fully-developed star personality, whether moaning the blues or suggesting that we get rhythm and jump with her.  The songs romp, groove, and moan — there are paeans to getting frisky on the dance floor, as well as heartbroken blues and naughty laments about making love to the wrong woman in the dark . . . all genres are more than adequately spoken for!’

I thought of Rod Serling — a jazz fan wanders into a diner where he’s never been, in an unidentified time and place.  The coffee is hot; the apple pie is fine . . . . and the jukebox needs no coins and plays one wildly appealing yet unfamiliar song after another . . .  But this isn’t the Twilight Zone, and HARLEM MAD isn’t a science-fiction dreamlike artifact.  

Here are Glenn, Meschiya, and the Syncopators performing one of Glenn’s originals from HARLEM MAD, NEW YEAR BLUES.  (And, yes, who could mistake the trumpet player in the clip?  That’s our own Bria Skonberg.):

And TEN ‘TIL FIVE, which suggests both the 1941 Goodman Sextet with Charlie Christian and one of the Minton’s sessions recorded that same year by Jerry Newman:

See what I mean?  The compositions on HARLEM MAD are the title song / TEN ‘TIL FIVE / YOU DON’T SAY / WITCHING HOUR BLUES / FORTUNATE LOVE / BARNEY’S BOUNCE / PAYIN’ NO MIND / CENTURY STOMPS / NEW YEAR BLUES / WALLINGFORD WIGGLES / I GOT NOTHIN’ / LAZY / THE CLAWJAMMER / MR. RHYTHM / FUMBLIN’ AROUND / THE DEPRIVATION BLUES / RAINIER VALLEY RHYTHM / PARC ON SUMMIT / THE BEAVER BUMP / NICE AND SLOE. 

The multi-talented musicians on the CD are Steve Mostovoy, trumpet / cornet; Dave Loomis, trombone; Craig Flory, clarinet / tenor; Paul Woltz, alto / brass bass; Ray Skjelbred or Solomon Douglas, piano; Glenn Crytzer, guitar / banjo / vocal; Dave Brown or Matt Weiner, string bass; Mike Daugherty, drums / washboard; Meschiya Lake, vocals. 

It’s not nice to tease people, but if you’re feeling whimsical when one of your jazz pals is visiting, you might pick a track from this CD and put it on, unannounced and unidentified . . . when the eyebrows go up and the friend wants to know exactly what that music (newly encountered) is, see how far you can go with a straight face, “Oh, that’s an unissued 1930 Champion by an otherwise unknown Chicago band,” or “That’s something they dug out of the Savoy vaults from 1947.  Like it?” 

Glenn  Crytzer and the Syncopators are just that good, just that swinging. 

There’s a great interview with Glenn at SWUNGOVER: http://swungover.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/interview-with-glenn-crytzer-of-the-syncopators/

and for more information about HARLEM MAD, visit Glenn’s website: http://www.syncopators.com.  Mellow indeed.

LIFE STUDIES from the SACRAMENTO JAZZ JUBILEE 2011

Always in motion, Brother Hal Smith brings swing:

Bob Schultz in fourth gear:

Katie Cavera, characteristically dour and grim:

Kevin Dorn of The Big 72:

Anita Thomas, reimagined as Sixties UK pop diva:

Clint Baker and his faithful Tuba:

The winner and still champion!

Bria Skonberg shines her light:

Danny Coots embodies the sign:

Don’t even think of putting your glass there:

Katie, Anita, and Kim Cusack swing out:

Ed Polcer, living the jazz life:

A happy fan meets Brother Hal Smith:

Bisected by bass:

Someone call the police: that boy has picked up another instrument:

Vintage merchandising, Sacramento-style:

SEEKING SATCH

The second annual “Seeking Satch” trumpet contest, sponsored in part by the French Market, French Quarter Festivals Inc. and German musician and festival promoter Thomas Gerdiken, is looking for “the next Louis Armstrong” — specifically, a New Orleans student in grades 8 through 12 who is adept at Armstrong-style blowing.  

Judges include trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and trumpeter Wendell Brunious.

The contest is May 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in Dutch Alley in the French Market, 916 N. Peters St.; applications are due by May 6.

Among other prizes, the winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to perform at a music festival in Germany and a new B&S trumpet valued at $3,000. Students must bring an instrument to the audition and be able to play any two major scales, play two to three minutes of a musical selection of his or her choosing, play any song popularized by Armstrong, and sight read a piece of music chosen by the judges. Students will be evaluated on technical facility, tone, musicality, sight reading and enthusiasm.

The “Seeking Satch” finalists will perform at the Satchmo SummerFest on Aug. 7.

Email http://akirk@frenchmarket.org for an application.

(The original source for this delightful news story is http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2011/04/seeking_satch_contest_looking.html)

What a wonderful idea!  I’d like to see the New York version of this, with judges Bria Skonberg, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Gordon Au . . . and one of the extra prizes could be a visit to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, where inspiration permeates every molecule of that structure.  (I would offer a Louis Armstrong Special Cigar, but smoking is bad for trumpet players.)  And the young players could also win a lifetime subscription to Ricky Riccardi’s irreplaceable blog, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG.

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!

AUGUST IN NEW YORK: FOUR DAYS WITH JIM FRYER

Photograph by Lorna Sass, 2008

(This is trombonist / euphonist / vocalist Jim Fryer’s essay on life-as-a-hard-working-jazz-musician . . . as printed in the November 2010 edition of The American Rag and reprinted here with everyone’s permission)

ME & NYC

6 gigs in 4 days: a life of slice

August 15–18, 2010

This is a somewhat random “Report From NYC,” based on a few days of “feet on the sidewalk” activity. It’s certainly not an exhaustive accounting of the activity around here, although it was a bit exhausting. There is so much great music, great jazz, and great trad jazz around here. This is just a slice, my little slice, of the scene. I think it was Hemingway who said you should write about what you know, and what you know best is your own life. It is also true, in my experience, that narcissism is one of the few skills that can improve with age, and I’m definitely on that bandwagon. So here goes. I hope someone else may find this interesting. I know I do.

* * *

Following a big chunk of time and energy expended (along with Jeff & Anne Barnhart) in helping our 5 “International All Stars” from the UK have a swell time in Connecticut, New York, and California (including doing double duty at the Orange County Classic Jazz Festival with the Titan Hot 7, the band that most readers of this journal will know me from), I enjoyed a respite visiting my parents at their house in the Maine woods. A short time after my return to New York, I found myself back on the busy streets & subway trains: the Asphalt Jungle. A small flurry of local gigs helped reorient me to this place where I am trying to live the good – or at least, the interesting – life.

Sunday August 15: From our domicile in West Harlem, I drove south on the Henry Hudson Parkway and West Side Highway, down to the Fat Cat Café, just off Sheridan Square in the West Village. This is one of my favorite joints ever: down the stairs to a very large room that contains games such as ping pong, pool, scrabble, chess, and beer and wine drinking. And oh yes, a small music area off to the side, easy chairs and sofas, a grand piano and a sound system (with a sound engineer!). When I die, if I’m lucky enough to choose my personal heaven, it will look a lot like the Fat Cat. (Our younger daughter once came along to a gig there, and decided that was where she wanted to get married.)

The band at the Fat Cat was a classic: Terry Waldo leading his Gotham City Jazz Band from the piano, singing & striding along; Peter Ecklund (tpt), Chuck Wilson (clr/as), Brian Nelepka (sb), John Gill (dms),and me (with my euphonium along for the ride). Nice, relaxed, easy. Good IPA on tap. 2 sets, no muss, no fuss, just plain fun. Girls boogie to our music while playing foozball. I’m very thankful that there are bandleaders who hire me for such good times. John Gill sang a lovely rendition of Irving Berlin’s When The Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves For Alabam’. John continues vocalizing (accompanying himself on guitar) later on Sunday nights over at the National Underground, where he, Brian, & drummer Kevin Dorn play good old rock and roll & country/western.

Normally, after the Fat Cat, I have the option to sit in with the Dixie Creole Cooking Jazz Band (led by cornetist Lee Lorenz) at Arthur’s Tavern, right around the corner from the Fat Cat, on their weekly Sunday gig; and then travel a few blocks down to The Ear, New York’s oldest saloon, for another fantastic session with the Ear-Regulars (led by Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri). But today, it’s back into the car and a scramble against heavy crosstown traffic and over the Williamsburg Bridge, to the Rose Café in Brooklyn. The gig thankfully started late anyhow! I played a duo set with Bliss Blood, the talented singer/songwriter/ukelele-ist from Texas via Brooklyn. We followed a young violinist/singer/synthesizer player who managed to sound like a rock band and symphony orchestra, all by herself. Playing old blues and Bliss’s original songs, our music sounded simple in comparison (one of my goals, actually), but the ‘elite’ (small) audience seemed to enjoy it.

Monday August 16: Every Monday brings me a steady musical diet. I play with a rehearsal big band in the afternoon. Working jazz musos the world over know what that means: get together for a few hours every week and ‘read’ (play) big band ‘charts’ (arrangements) for no commercial purpose whatsoever. The opportunity to sight read new material (often written by someone in the band) and schmooze with friends is sufficient compensation. If you hang out at the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 building on West 48th Street for a week, you’ll hear dozens of these bands, taking advantage of the very low room rental rates.

Next comes one of the musical highlights of my life for the last several years: Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks making their weekly Monday appearance at Club Cache, downstairs from Sofia’s Restaurant in the famed Edison Hotel on West 46th Street, just a few feet west of Times Square. I’m not enough of a wordsmith to adequately bring to life the excitement and dynamism that Vince Giordano brings to each & every gig he plays. He is a one man tornado, playing hot string bass, tuba, and bass sax, singing, performing mc duties, meeting & greeting each customer who comes down the stairs into our subterranean cabaret, and setting up & breaking down equipment for hours each week. A characteristic touch is added by our technician & ‘introducer,’ John Landry (aka Sir Scratchy), and we couldn’t do without our various ‘Mikes’ (Mike being the generic term to describe anyone who helps out on the gig, from moving equipment to playing music). Our steadiest Mike is Carol, Vince’s partner, who [wo]mans the door and seats patrons; we also are lucky to have Earl, who in addition to schlepping equipment, spends his ‘down’ time translating Vince’s antique arrangements into modern notation via Sibelius software – at an incredible clip (he will complete a full 13 piece arrangement during the course of the 3 hour gig, something that would take me weeks).

Vince’s Monday night gig has become enormously popular since its debut in May of 2008. A great dance floor brings in the rugcutters (including many athletic young lindy hoppers), and the room is typically full of customers from the world over. The legendary 88 year old clarinetist Sol Yaged is featured on a tune each set. Vince is the Toscanini of the evening, conducting our journey through the sublime world of Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, and a plethora of songwriters & arrangers: Bill Challis, Raymond Scott, Fats Waller, Irving Berlin. From the downbeat at precisely 8pm to the closing at 11pm, it is truly a world of amazing music & delight. We often have quite well known folks ‘sitting in:’ singers like Michael Feinstein, Nellie McKay, and Daryl Sherman; instrumentalists from around the world; the comedian Micky Freeman; and famous audience members such as cartoonist R. Crumb, a big classic jazz fan.

This particular Monday included all members of what I call the “A Team;” that is, all the first call musicians. (The band hardly suffers when subs come in: John Allred in the trombone chair could not be described as bringing the level down!). Many of these players are quite well known in a variety of genres. Here they are:

Reeds: Dan Block, Dan Levinson, Mark Lopeman

Trumpets: Mike Ponella, Jon-Erik Kellso

Trombone: your humble (ahem!) reporter

Violin/Sax: Andy Stein

Piano: Peter Yarin

Banjo/Guitar: Ken Salvo

Percussion: Arnie Kinsella

Basses/Everything: Vince Giordano

Tuesday August 17: Tuesday daytime may bring a few trombone students to me (in the summer, a handful; during the school year, a full day – if I’m lucky); or an occasional concert in a Connecticut school, with a band called the Cool Cats; then comes a reprise of Monday night. Vince has been working hard since this past June to get a second night established. It’s still the quieter night, and I bet Vince is counting audience members as he’s counting off tunes; but it also can work more as a rehearsal, Vince handing out charts on stage from his vast collection (60,000 in the archives).

At 11:40pm, I’m back on the train from Grand Central Station (busy place, that) to Rye, 25 miles NE of the city, where my wife (sometimes described as “long suffering”) works at a private school, which offers on-campus housing as a benefit for her very hard work. I love the view walking east on 43rd Street, with the Chrysler Building looming over the majestic train terminal. By 12:30am I’m strolling down our very quiet and pretty suburban street, where Peter Cottontail may sometimes be seen munching lettuce in the garden. This particular night a local cop car slows to a stop as I’m walking up to our place. The cop looks me over (trombone, wheelie bag for mutes etc, garment bag with tux), and says, “Ya got everything?” Funny guy. It’s good to know they’re out on the beat. Sometimes I stay “in town,” at the apartment we have in West Harlem (currently also the abode of our eldest daughter, a fervent New Yorker).

Wednesday August 18: Wednesday brings another doubleheader (paydirt for us musos; even better, the rare tripleheader; many years ago I played 4 gigs on the Fourth of July). First the late afternoon session at Birdland, the world famous club on West 44th: David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band. This long running (10+ years) weekly gig features a rotating roster of the finest trad players in town. Today, in addition to tuba player & leader Osti, I had the pleasure of being on stage with Jon-Erik Kellso (tpt), Anat Cohen (clr), Ehud Asherie (pn), & Marion Felder (dms). Yours truly was the old guy on stage. (I’m trying to get used to that.) David’s bands are some of the most ‘diverse’ in the biz, in terms of not only age but also gender and race. The general lack of diversity can be a slightly touchy issue in the trad jazz arena, so it’s nice to see Osti put together bands that ‘look like America’ – and also swing like crazy! This Wednesday session was a very special one: Dave Bennett, the young clarinet virtuoso from Michigan, sat in, along with a young also sax player (from Russia, I believe; I didn’t catch his name); and in the audience, 91 year old George Avakian, one of the most esteemed figures in jazz history (George has produced hundreds of classic jazz albums).

Then to Brooklyn (by subway), to play again with Bliss Blood, this time with the Moonlighters (20s/30s swing, with a Hawaiian flavor). Bliss’s vocals & uke are joined by Cindy Ball (guitar & impeccable vocal harmonies), Raphael McGregor (lap steel), Rus Wimbish (string bass), & the horn section: me! I love being the only horn player, it’s nice & quiet, with no temptation to engage in technical battles: who can play faster, higher, or more cleverly. As I get older, I feel pleasure in knowing how to add a bit of value to the music, no pyrotechnics, please. I’m trying to play better by playing less. It’s a thrill to learn brand new songs that Bliss and Cindy write. The art form continues to evolve. I also love this venue. The Radegast Beer Hall, a big open space, with fine beer (of course) and hearty German food, is in the heart of Williamsburg, a neighborhood that feels young and vibrant. It restores my faith in humanity when the band is fed so well on the gig! All kinds of bands play here, including several youthful units, such as Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers, and the Baby Soda band (which includes trombonist Emily Asher of Mighty Aphrodite Jazz Band fame). Several times folks got up and danced around the bar area, in most cases to our music. Finishing after midnight means arriving back in Harlem close to 2am – fortunately, not driving, which reduces the danger and risk (seriously, everyone who’s been in the music business knows musos who have fallen asleep at the wheel late at night); as long as I don’t sleep through my subway stop and end up in Riverdale (a nice neighborhood, but miles north of my pad).

* * *

It was a great little run of gigs. I feel quite lucky to be able to work with so many interesting people. And if sometimes being the oldest on stage is a bit of a bittersweet experience (I guess I ought to get used to it as “As Time Goes By”), it is certainly encouraging for the future of the music. From long time residents (like drummer Kevin Dorn, born in Manhattan about 30 years ago – his band, the Traditional Jazz Collective, gigs all over town) to those newly arrived, NYC is still, as ever, a magnet for young, ambitious, and hardworking people. A few of the young “immigrants:” trombonist Emily Asher, transplanted from Washington state for a couple of years to get her Masters degree; trumpeter Gordon Au, from California (I should mention Gordon’s very musical family: brothers Justin and Brandon are fine players who have blown with the Titans in Pismo Beach CA, and Uncle Howard Miyata plays a mean tailgate trombone with High Sierra Jazz Band); young trombonist Matt Musselman from Maryland, a recent graduate of Manhattan School of Music, and one of my subs in the Nighthawks (his band is called Grandpa Musselman and His Syncopators); and trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg, due to arrive any second now. There is most definitely a youth movement going on! I wouldn’t know how to advise these young people about putting together an actual living in NYC: this is one tough town to pay your bills in – but somehow they are doing it. Perhaps I should ask them for advice! The total take from my 6 gigs (minus the expenses) will buy a few bags of groceries, pay back the loan for a couple of textbooks for my younger daughter’s college degree, with about $1.13 left for my pension contribution. Guess I can’t retire yet. I’ll get up tomorrow and go off in search of more students and gigs. I know one musician who was heard to say: “Retire! How can I retire? I’ve never had a job!”

I would be remiss if I didn’t also tip my cap to the folks around here who have been promoting the classic jazz scene for many years, such as: Bruce McNichols, musician, impresario, and radio OKOM producer; Jack Kleinsinger, whose “Highlghts In Jazz” series has run for 37 years; the Sidney Bechet Society, which puts on fine concerts in Manhattan; New Jersey folks like Bruce Gast & the New Jersey Jazz Society; Connecticut jazzers who put together the Hot Steamed Festival and the Great Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival; & radio hosts such as Rich Conaty on WFUV-FM and Phil Schaap on WKCR-FM. Youth combined with Experience will carry the day for the music we love!

Jim Fryer

August 2010

For more info:  www.jfryer.com, www.terrywaldo.com, www.blissblood.com, www.myspace.com/vincegiordanothenighthawks, http://www.ostwaldjazz.com/., www.coolcatjazz.info,

HAPPY NEW EAR! (Jan. 2, 2011)

One of the regular features of JAZZ LIVES is my reporting on what delights occurred at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on the preceding Sunday night.  Saying that I have a good time would be an understatement.   

But even I — expecting the finest kind of jazz synergy on a regular basis — was astonished by what happened on January 2, 2011.

The EarRegulars and their friends created extraordinary music last Sunday night as 2011 took hold.  I had the privilege of watching individual creative impulses coalesce into something larger, something casually magnificent — all only a few feet from my camera.      

If this seems overstatement, a kind of “witness to history” pronouncement appropriate only to breaking news, the music will explain my feelings.  I’m delighted to present some of the evening’s many highlights. 

The EarRegulars, for the first set, were a quartet of friends: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Nicki Parrott, bass; John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar. 

They began with OH, BABY! — a song beloved of Jazz Age Chicagoans and of Eddie Condon and friends.  Because of the season, this performance was full of sly references to wintry / holiday tunes, causing Matt to say it should have been called OH, BROTHER!  But now that I am safe from FROSTY THE SNOWMAN for another eleven months, I didn’t mind.  See if you can catch all the in-and-out jokes.  And see if you can keep from laughing at the musical frolics:

Another good old good one, AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL, reminiscent of Bix as well, could easily have been the title for this posting.  Enjoy the conversational games played so well by these four brilliant improvisers:

To cool things off a bit, Jon-Erik asked John to choose one with a trombone lead, and John suggested the timeless “rhythm ballad” THESE FOOLISH THINGS, a performance full of quiet feeling:

Early on in the evening, there were intimations of a jam session to come.  I had spotted trombonist Emily Asher sitting at one table, then saxophonist Lisa Parrott, then trumpeter Bria Skonberg.  To my right appeared (like a belated holiday gift) the cornetist Dan Tobias, who was invited to join the festivities for a romping FROM MONDAY ON:

When the first set had ended, even more musicians came in, among them the ever-faithful Dan Block, clarinet at the ready.  I chatted with another clarinet wizard, Pete Martinez, about the Albert system, Johnny Windhurst, Eddie Condon in the 1950s, Skeets Tolbert and his Gentlemen of Swing, and TISHOMINGO BLUES.  Where else but at The Ear Inn?

Later, Howard Alden came in — first to listen — and I eventually noticed the broad back of someone I didn’t recognize, but when he began to play wire brushes on the paper-covered table, I knew that he knew: it was Chuck Redd!

(In the break, the actor James Gandolfini had come in, had a drink or two, and decided not to stay — a grave mistake.  When Jeremy Irons had visited The Ear Inn some years back, he had the good sense to stick around for The EarRegulars!)

The second set was masterfully orchestrated by Maestro Kellso, who invited these friends up one at a time.  It swelled into a thirteen-piece ensemble for AFTER YOU’VE GONE (which — if you’re keeping score — began with the last eight bars — more accurately, the last sixteen played double-time, says Jon-Erik).  And please note how each jam-session performance levitates itself on a flying carpet of Kellso-driven riffs, some from Basie, some from Louis, all in the grand tradition:

Then, a more moderate approach to WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM, an unlikely prospect for both players and audience.  In F, please:

Seeing the three trombones, Jon-Erik suggested TIGER RAG — an ecstatic romp presented here in two parts, because I couldn’t bear to lose even the final thirty-five seconds:

The last little bit (good to the last drop!):

Writing about this experience two days later, I don’t think that this music — simultaneously ecstatic and expert — needs much explication.  But more was going on at The Ear Inn than musicians stopping by to play a chorus or two. 

It was the creation of an inspired, mutually supportive community, nothing less. 

Jon-Erik, Matt, Victor Villar-Hauser (behind the bar but so much more than a mere pourer of libations), and the owners of The Ear Inn have all worked without calling attention to themselves to make 326 Spring Street on Sunday nights a remarkable place. 

It’s that rare spot where jazz musicians know they will be allowed and encouraged to play their own music with their peers.  Those of us who value such an unusual occurrence come to the Ear as if on a pilgrimage  — and the musicians feel the same way.  (In the audience but not playing were Chuck Wilson, Barbara Dreiwitz, and many others.)

And there’s more. 

In our time, where texting offers itself as equal to experience, the creation of such a community is both beautiful and special.  The sense of separateness that underlies much of our daily life disappears while the music is playing. 

Here we are!” say the musicians.  “Come with us!”  The smiles of the players and the observers light the dark room.  And a singular cohesiveness blossoms, a solace we seek all through our waking hours without knowing it.

As the new year begins, may we all embody our work as beautifully as these musicians do.  May we  all wear our accomplishments with such easy grace.   

And while writing these words, I felt for a moment, “I have witnessed something that will never come again,” but who knows?  There’s always next Sunday at The Ear Inn, which is hopeful and uplifting. 

Eight o’clock (really seven-thirty or earlier if you like sitting). 

You come, too. 

Bring your appreciative self and something for the tip jar.  The EarRegulars will supply the joy.

DAN BARRETT, THE GROVE STREET STOMPERS, and FRIENDS (Oct. 18, 2010)

Bill Dunham, the pianist-leader of the Grove Street Stompers, will proudly tell you that the band’s unbroken run of Monday nights at Arthur’s Tavern, the “West Side’s smartest supper club,” began in 1959 — a record indeed! 

Monday, October 18, 2010, was a special night because Dan Barrett brought his own jubilant energy and a borrowed cornet.  Dan’s cornet playing is a great joy, both clipped and lyrical.  On this horn, he comes from the great tradition, echoing Louis, Bobby, Ruby, Sweets, Buck, and more, but the result always sounds like Barrett, which is the way it’s supposed to be.

Dan inspired the GSS: Bill on piano, Peter Ballance on trombone and announcements, Joe Licari on clarinet, Skip Muller on bass, and Giampaolo Biagi on drums.

Here are three selections from that evening.  JUST A CLOSER WAlK WITH THEE is one of those “Dixieland chestnuts” that usually descends into cliche, but not with the preaching trombone of guest J. Walter Hawkes, welcome at any gig:

A rousing THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE called to mind the ecstatic Condon recording for Columbia in the early Fifties:

And at the end of the evening, Bill gracefully gave up his seat at the piano to the Maestro, Rossano Sportiello, and they swung out on OH, BABY!: 

At the Tavern, the Creole Cooking Jazz Band (featuring Lee Lorenz, Dick Dreiwitz, Barbara Dreiwitz, and others) plays on Sundays, Eve Silber (often with Michael Hashim) holds down Wednesdays, and the Monday-night ensemble includes Peter Ecklund or Barry Bryson on trumpet / cornet.  Other guests have included Bria Skonberg, Emily Asher, and Bob Curtis.  Arthur’s Tavern (some spell it Arthurs) is located at 57 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, and the Sunday sessions run from 7-10 PM.

JIM FRYER AND FRIENDS, SWEETLY (June 2, 2010)

I was at Birdland last Wednesday, listening to David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band.  The LACB always attracts first-rank players, but this edition was remarkable because it was an All-Star All-Leader Band (with none of the expected tensions): David on tuba and vaudeville commentaries; Vince Giordano on banjo, vocal, and guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet; Dan Block on clarinet and alto sax; Jim Fryer on trombone and vocals. 

Although it has nothing to do with his musical virtues, Jim might be the least-celebrated of this group, although I’ve admired his playing since I first heard him a few years ago — perhaps as a member of the Nighthawks and certainly as someone sharing the stage with Bria Skonberg at one of Bill Taggart’s informal jazz gatherings.  He is a modest player but an exuberant player, taking risks when appropriate, never coasting.  I’ve also known him as a fine understated singer — but I’ve never heard him sing as wonderfully as he did last Wednesday.

As much as he enjoys playing the music and talking about Louis Armstrong, David Ostwald loves to connect with the people in the audience.  Occasionally it takes the form of comedy, as when he earnestly implores those of us who are driving to be sure we have a car, but sometimes it’s much more personal and endearing.  At the end of the first set, David noticed that there were a number of well-dressed women of varying ages in the front row; he chatted with them and found that they were at Birdland to celebrate someone’s birthday — which turned out to be the nicely coiffed Lorraine . . . someone obviously surrounded by love from the other women in her party. 

Because the LACB draws much of its repertoire from music that Louis played and recorded, SWEET LORRAINE was a natural choice — something the great man recorded in the Fifties on Verve with Oscar Peterson.  So the band launched into a sweet, slow version, but no one had yet chosen to take the vocal.  Vince had sung a few numbers before this with great style, but no vocal was announced . . . until Jim took the microphone to deliver the refrain in the most tenderly endearing manner:

Lorraine, sitting right in front of me, was delighted. 

And I, watching this performance again, find it full of human moments: the pleasure of Dan Block’s chalumeau register; Jon-Erik’s steady, winding phrases (and how unflappable he is while a good deal of microphone-hunting is going on behind him); Vince, making jokes as he plays; the pulse of the rhythm section, and Jon-Erik’s quiet Muggsy Spanier ending.  Masterful all around!

Sometimes bad things pile on: this was a rare night when one outpouring of affection succeeded another.  Vince Giordano came over to Lorraine at the end of the night (he is ever hopeful of garnering some fascinating piece of first-hand experience from someone who saw and heard his heroes) but Lorraine didn’t recall the names of bands; she didn’t have Victor Home Recording discs in her attic; she did, however, tell Vince that she was an avid fox-trotter, which pleased him.

Then David Ostwald brought himself and his tuba over and tenderly chatted with Lorraine . . . and said, “I’m going to play something for you.”  He proceeded to play a tender, legato, singing version of HAPPY BIRTHDAY — sweet and slow — on the tuba, ending with a Louis-flourish.  He sang through that brass tubing as if it were a cello — a very moving experience!  I was sitting there, possibly with my mouth open, too struck by what was going on (it seemed private) to record it for YouTube, so you will have to imagine it.

When I caught up with Jim later, to tell him how much this particular performance moved me, he reminded me that one of his and his wife Rosita’s daughters is named Lorraine — a choice the prospective parents made after hearing Doc Cheatham sing the song with unaffected grace on Sunday brunches at Sweet Basil.  It pleases me immensely to be able to offer this lyrical moment for the Lorraine in the audience, Lorraine Fryer, and all the people out there who answer to other names. 

What is all this?  Love in the shape of music.

NEWS FROM THE BOHEM RAGTIME JAZZ BAND (February 2010)

I’ve shared some YouTube videos of the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band here in the past: they do live up to their description as “possibly the workd’s most versatile jazz band” — the band adapts wonderfully to all kinds of jazz material without the soloists losing their essential identities.

The BJRB will be celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary on March 8, 2010.  Congratulations!  Keeping a band together for a quarter-century in these perilous times (perilous for Hot jazz as well as most other things) is a real accomplishment. 

AND the Bohem Jazz Festival is nearly upon us.  That’s March 26-28, 2010.  More information about the six-day package offer here:http://festival.bohemragtime.com/images/fest10-touristinfo.pdf.  The musicians featured at the Festival will include Nicolas Montierm tenor sax;  Thilo Wagner, piano; Jennifer Leitham, string bass; Vince Bartels, drums; Washboard Wizardz, the BRJB, of course;  PapaJazz; Swing Manouche Project; Daniel Balazs, piano; Ivan Nagy, piano; the Penge Benge Jazz Band . . . and more.  

“How did he find all this out?” you might ask.  Easy as paprika: I simply visited http://www.bohemragtime.com.  You can, too!  They have an email newsletter, but they neither harangue nor pester — it’s great fun.  And if you aren’t fluent in Hungarian, don’t panic — click on the Union Jack and everything will appear in a flash in the most melodious English prose.  There you can hear and see Joe Muranyi singing BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, and find out about your special present from the BRJB.  It’s all true!

But since the Beloved and I are not going to be able to attend the Festival this year, I’ve been delighting in several CDs and DVDs put out by the BRJB and esteemed guests.  There’s a DVD by the BRJB itself, one with guests including Herbert Christ, Bria Skonberg, Matthias Seuffert, Bob Barnard, Nick Ward, and Jeff Hamilton, and a delightful CD — a hot piano / violin recital, with both instruments expertly played by the swinging Tamas Itzes. 

Check it out — no, check them out. 

Sound of New Orleans
(with Bob Barnard & Herbert Christ – tp, Matthias Seuffert – cl, ts)
CD: KJA-BCD 8020, 2005

1. I’m Sorry I Made You Cry (Nicholas Joseph Clesi)
2. You’re Lucky To Me (Andy Razaf–Eubie Blake)
3. Cornet Chop Suey (Louis Armstrong)
4. Sorry (Raymond Klages–Howdy Quicksell)
5. Someday Sweetheart (Benjamin & John Spikes)
6. Stompin’ At The Savoy (Benny Goodman–Andy Razaf–Chick Webb–Edgar Sampson)
7. Black Beauty (Duke Ellington)
8. Smackaroony (Bob Barnard)
9. Wall Street Rag (Bud Coleman)
10. Black Bottom Stomp (Jelly Roll Morton)
11. Everybody Loves My Baby (Jack Palmer–Spencer Williams)
12. Sing, You Sinners (W. Frank Harling–Sam Coslow)
13. Home (Harry & Jeff Clarkson–Peter van Steeden)
14. San (Walter Michels–Lindsay McPhail)
15. Mandy, Mandy, Make Up Your Mind (Meyer–Johnston–Clarke–Turk)
16. Body and Soul (Green–Heyman)
17. Down In Honky Tonk Town (Charles McCharon–Chris Smith)
18. Sweet Substitute (Jelly Roll Morton)

Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band Live! – 12. Dixieland Jubilee, Stuttgart
CD: CACD 8302, 2008

1. Milenberg Joys (Jelly Roll Morton-New Orleans Rhythm Kings)
2. I’m Sorry I Made You Cry (N. J. Clesi)
3. Ballin’ The Jack (Chris Smith)
4. Someday Sweetheart (Benjamin & John Spikes)
5. Whistling Rufus (Kerry Mills)
6. Love At Sundown (H. M. King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej)
7. Sam, the old accordion man (Walter Donaldson)
8. Cataract Rag (Robert Hampton)
9. I’m Confessin’ (Doc Daugherty-Al J. Neiburg-Ellis Reynolds)
10. Creole Jazz (Claude Luter)
11. Black Beauty (Duke Ellington)
12. Louisiana (J. C. Johnson-Andy Razaf-Shafer)
13. Maple Leaf Rag (Scott Joplin)
14. Tango Palace (Ott fogsz majd sírni…) (József Kola-Andor Szenes-Joe Murányi)
15. Honey Suckle Rose (Andy Razaf-Thomas “Fats” Waller)
16. The Entertainer (Scott Joplin-John Brimhall)
17. Good night, ladies (traditional)

1. Wild Romantic Blues [2:15]  
2. Tin Whistle Blues [3:00]  
3. Kiss Me Sweet [2:58]  
4. Never Let No One Man Worry Your Mind [2:28]  
5. The Carolina Blues [1:56]  
6. The Fives [2:28]  
7. Freakish Blues [2:22]  
8. Irresistible Blues [2:46]  
9. Charleston Clarinet Blues [2:34]  
10. War Bride Blues [4:05]  
11. Paradise Blues [2:57]  
12. Monday Morning Blues [2:22]  
13. Blue Law Sunday Blues [2:39]  
14. Jerry the Junker [2:15]  
15. Black Cat Blues [2:55]  
16. Alabama Blues [2:18]  
17. Louisville Blues [3:06]  
18. Jogo Blues [3:16]  
19. It Takes a Long Tall Brown-skin Gal to Make a Preacher Lay His Bible Down [3:03]  
20. You’re Such a Cruel Papa to Me [2:53]  
21. A Bunch of Blues [4:04]  
22. Regretful Blues [3:38]  
23. You’ll Want Me Back Someday [3:06]

And here’s a YouTube sample:

MAHOGANY HALL STOMP (with József Lebanov, trumpet; Attila Korb, trombone; Zoltán Mátrai, clarinet; Tamás Ittzés, piano, leader; József Török, tuba; György Mátrai, banjo; Alfréd Falusi, drums.

HOT JAZZ for NEW YEAR’S EVE 2010!

I hope that your 2009 has been a spectacularly good year and that you are sorry to see it come to an end.  But even if you are more than ready for 2010 to come and sweep the detritus of 2009 away for good, there’s no better way to make the occasion fesrive than with some hot jazz on the radio.  Or on your computer.  Gather round your laptop, raise the volume,  and lift your glasses high!

The musical largesse comes from the Riverwalk Jazz people — who have been sending it out on the airwaves for free for more than two decades. 

This program, recorded live at the Sacramento Jazz Festival, is called LAST CALL LATE NIGHT JAM, and it features three of my heroes: Jon-Erik Kellso, Hal Smith, and trombonist Bill Allred, sitting in with Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band. 

If you’ve been invited to a party where the host chooses the music, don’t fret: the show will be rebroadcast from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6, 2010.  

The site is http://www.riverwalkjazz.org/jazznotes/last_call/

If you prefer to spin your FM dial, here are the many radio stations that broadcast Riverwalk: http://www.riverwalkjazz.org/StationList/

Swing out the old year, swing in the new!

And — for those of us who can focus on what’s ahead in 2010, the Riverwalk program has many delights in store: during January, they will be offering a Teddy Wilson tribute featuring Dick Hyman (the week of 1/7); a Bob Barnard program (1/14; a Sidney Bechet jamboree with Bob Wilber and Evan Christopher (1/21) and more!  Visit http://www.riverwalkjazz.org/ for details about programs to come in February and March 2010 . . . featuring Bria Skonberg and Gary Giddins, honoring Lil Hardin Armstrong, Red Nichols, Fletcher Henderson and more!

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.

MORE FROM KECSKEMET

That Hungarian city is the site of the International Bohem Ragtime and Jazz Festival, and it must be a jumping metropolis, if these two new YouTube clips are evidence.  The first is a sweet, almost rueful take on SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART, with the festival organizer Tamas Itzes (now Doctor Itzes!) taking the violin solo and the vocal.  He’s surrounded by the best international jazz musicians here on March 29, 2009. Herbert Christ, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet; Tamás Ittzés; Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano; Ad van Beerendonk, bass; Nick Ward, drums. Even though the sound is slightly unbalanced in favor of the piano, the ambiance is late-night Chicago circa 1933.  Not to be missed!

And this is a first for JAZZ LIVES — a rocking performance of a Hungarian Jazz Age pop song, “EGY KICSIT ANGYAL LEGYEN, EGY KICSIT DEMON.” 

I found out that the title translates to “A LITTLE ANGEL,” and the lyrics, roughly speaking, go like this: A little angel, a little demon, be a little deceptive, a little true, be a little nice, a little thin, be a little clever, and beautiful!  Be a fairy house during the day, and exciting evening! Fortunately, such a woman could not be found!

Some of the idioms must get lost via Google: I can’t see myself whispering to the Beloved, “You are a fairy house during the day.”  But the ambiance needs no translation!  Nor do the solos and ensemble work by Tamás Bényei, trumpet, guitar, vocal; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Craig Flory, clarinet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor; Russ Phillips, trombone; Paolo Alderighi, piano; Stuart Zank, banjo; Ad van Beerendonk, bass; Nick Ward, drums.

And, as I’ve written before, the Bohém Festival was the first jazz festival ever being broadcast live on Internet. The broadcast had 30,000 online visitors throughout the weekend. For more information visit: www.bohemragtime.com.

DO THAT THING!

I’m always slightly dubious about “all-star” groups, for occasionally these assemblages of stellar soloists aren’t the most cohesive bands.  These performances can become a string of solos on over-familiar material. 

Not so at the International Bohem Ragtime and Jazz Festival, obviously.  Here are two delightful videos, just posted on YouTube, of two groups of international all-stars, producing very rewarding jazz at the 2009 festival.  Incidentally, even though these songs are from the last century, the Bohem Festival is as technologically sophisticated as anyone could wish — imaginative camera work here and the 2009 bash was the first jazz festival ever broadcast live on the internet, with 30,000 online visitors during the weekend. 

The first group features Matthias Seuffert on clarinet, Attila Korb on trombone and vocal, Herbert Christ on trumpet, on trombone and vocal, Paolo Alderighi on piano, Tamas Benyei on guitar, Ad van Beerendonk on bass, and Nick Ward on drums.  Without copying the Waller record, they get into a surging yet relaxed groove on LULU’S BACK IN TOWN — that last bridge, featuring Matthias and Nick, is priceless!  Some of the pleasure of watching / listening to this is, of course, finding more material by my heroes in top form — but there’s a deeper pleasure in meeting players previously unknown to me and savoring their mastery. 

Another, entirely different group, featuring Bria Skonberg on trumpet, Russ Phillips on trombone, Craig Flory, reeds, Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano, Stuart Zank, banjo, Janos Mazura, tuba, and Jeff Hamilton on drums, rocks through BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GAVE TO ME — with perfectly-played riffs at the end.     

In 2010, two festivals will take place in Hungary, with world-class players.  Start making plans!  For more information visit: www.bohemragtime.com.  (DVD’s are also available.)