The mythology of jazz (and sometimes the reality) is full of primate-competitiveness, where the Old Lion must defend his kingdom against the Young Cub. Johnny Dunn and Jabbo Smith tried to unseat Louis Armstrong; a myriad of Kansas City tenor saxophonists did their best to outblow Coleman Hawkins.
I’d heard about young — sixteen year-old — reedman Nathan Tokunaga from Marc Caparone and Clint Baker, and although the video evidence was splendid, I came to the Jazz Bash by the Bay last weekend with some ingrained skepticism about musicians too young to drive themselves to the gig.
But Nathan quickly showed himself an adult in every conceivable way except the number on his birth certificate. In conversation, he revealed himself as assured yet humble, gracious and warm. And on the bandstand, he has an adult musical intelligence, which is to say he is not simply someone who has mastered the clarinet, that unfogiving hybrid of wood and metal, but he is a musician, creating phrases that make sense which become choruses with structure, energy, and personality. His solos are compact and satisfying; his ensemble playing is respectful yet inventive. The clarinet lends itself to shrill forays into its highest register, strings of notes where two would be so much more eloquent: Nathan avoids these excesses. The musicians who were meeting and hearing him for the first time were, shall we say, blown away.
Nathan is the featured clarinetist with Marc Caparone’s marvelous new band, the Sierra Stompers, who are Marc, cornet and vocal; Howard Miyata, trombone and vocal; Brian Holland, piano; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar, vocal; Paul Hagglund, tuba; Gareth Price, drums, washboard, and voca. In one set, Nathan stood next to Bob Draga, a clarinet star and festival veteran who made his first recordings in 1980. It could have been a spectacularly bloody display of ego, but it was gentle, playful, and very musical. Here is RUNNIN’ WILD and Bob’s comments afterwards:
Bob celebrates Nathan:
What a wonderful surprise! And I am honored to know and chronicle Nathan, mature beyond his years.
I could write this post in under ten words, like a telegram. GREAT MUSIC COMING. WE’LL BE THERE. SEE YOU TOO, but even my very hip audience might need some elaboration, so here goes.
The OAO and I will be going to the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California. It’s held at the comfortable Portola Hotel and Convention Center, and the fun begins Thursday evening, March 2, and skitters to a stop on Sunday afternoon, March 5. It is one of the more convenient festivals I know, because all of the music is under one roof, so the most arduous walking one has to do is from one room to another, and when something nie is happening above, there’s an escalator. (Even youngbloods appreciate such conveniences.)
Here are some of the musicians who will be appearing, a list too long for me to pretend it will be complete: Brandon Au, Justin Au, Clint Baker, Anne Barnhart, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, Chris Calabrese, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera, Josh Collazo, Danny Coots, Bob Draga, Chris Dawson, Marty Eggers, Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Corey Gemme, Paul Hagglund, Brian Holland, Marilyn Keller, Nate Ketner, Rebecca Kilgore, Dawn Lambeth, Carl Sonny Leyland, Howard Miyata, Don Neely, John Otto, Steve Pikal, Gareth Price, Tom Rigney, Sam Rocha, Andy Schumm, Hal Smith, Dave Stuckey, Stephanie Trick, Nathan Tokunaga, Jason Wanner, and a cast of hundreds.
Like most festivals, the opportunities for existential dilemmas abound, with sometimes eight events going on (separated at times by a half-hour start time) so there is too much going on to see and hear it all. To wit: the vertigo-inducing schedule. I suggest that one bring a highlighter or a set of Sharpies to delineate where one MUST be at any given time. Possibly people blessed with greater tech skills know how to do this on their new iPhone 206; perhaps someone will teach me.
I could go on about what a wonderful festival this is. How festivals, deprived of active support, dry up and fly away and are no more. But you know all this, or I hope you do. Rather, I’d present some delightful video evidence: I began coming to this festival in 2011, and I think I missed one year between then and 2020. So I will let the music, hot and sweet, do the explaining for me. I apologize to any musician who’s in a video who’s not at the Bash this year: I mean no offense, and hope to show off your glories to this audience.
LOVE POTION NUMBER NINE:
SOLID OLD MAN:
TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:
THE YAMA YAMA MAN:
I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:
TENDER IS THE NIGHT / I GOT RHYTHM:
CHARLEY, MY BOY:
YOUNG AND HEALTHY:
To quote Mister Tea, “If that don’t get it, well, forget it for now.” See you there! And here‘s how to order, as they used to say.
TEN YEARS, by the Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith Western Swing All-Stars:
JULIANNE, by Charlie [Halloran] and the Tropicales:
I am very excited by this news that the Redwood Coast Music Festival is returning. It gives my native optimism fertile soil to grow in. This festival is a friendly sustained explosion of some of the best musical talent I know.
Here are some of the glorious people who will be there, singing and playing. Dave Stuckey, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Twerk Thomson, Kris Tokarski, Charlie Halloran, Jonathan Doyle, Joel Paterson, Dawn Lambeth, Brian Casserly, Dave Bennett, T.J. Muller, Katie Cavera, Jacob Zimmerman, Duke Robillard, Jessica King, Ryan Calloway, Riley Baker, Chris Wilkinson, James Mason, Jamey Cummins, Josh Collazo, Tom Rigney, Sam Rocha, Nate Ketner, Dave Kosymna, Alex Hall, Beau Sample, Dan Walton, John Gill, Jontavious Willis, Brian Holland, Danny Coots, and more. And more.
The festival runs from Thursday evening to Sunday evening (September 29 to October 2) and there are either five or six simultaneous sets. Simultaneous. I emphasize this because I got the most charming vertigo trying to plot a course through the tentative schedule, an exercise in Buddhist non-attachment or chess (which I never learned): “I want to see X at 5:30 but that means I can’t see Y then, but I can see Y the next day.”
I’ve only been to Redwood Coast once, in 2019, a transcendent experience and I don’t overstate: the only festival that made me think longingly of hiring a camera crew of at least two friends so that we could capture some portion of the good(ly) sounds. one of the nicest things about this festival is its broad love of energized passionate music: jazz, blues, swing, country, zydeco, soul, rhythm and blues, “Americana,” “roots” — you name it.
Did I mention that there’s room for dancing?
Are some of the names listed above unfamiliar to you? Go here to learn more about the artists and see videos of their work
You can buy tickets here. And maybe you’ll think this is the voice of entitlement, but an all-events pass — four days! — is $135, at least until August 1.
Here’s one more musical convincer from 2019:
Remember, every time it rains it rains PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — in this case, rare musical experiences. But you can’t catch them in your ears or outstretched hands by staying at home.
Too good to ignore: Steve Pikal, string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone, clarinet; Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet. THREE LITTLE WORDS, key-changing from C to Ab:
That swinging love song from 1930 is much loved by jazz musicians — perhaps beginning with the Ellington version. It’s also the setup for a famous Turk Murphy joke, and Pee Wee Russell used to call it THREE LITTLE BIRDS. Here it’s a playground for this swinging band to enjoy themselves and bring joy to us.
Not that I need a reason! But I am posting this today for two: the HCJF version of LULU’S BACK IN TOWN made many people happy, if the statistics are valid proof — here — and today is Brian Holland’s birthday. So we celebrate him and the band!
It intrigues me that so many of the songs that are classics of hot jazz sing the praises of the American South, although many of the African-American musicians went at least partway North as soon as they could, and for good reason. Louis Armstrong really loved his home town, so there was no irony in his singing and playing WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH for forty years; other musicians, however, felt the disconnect keenly — that Fats Waller could record MY WINDOW FACES THE SOUTH but while he was touring that region the hotels and restaurants frequented by the dominant race were closed to him. Alas.
All this is prelude to the Bennie Moten – Thamon Hayes instrumental hit, simply called SOUTH — recorded in 1924 and 1928, and kept in the Victor catalogue into the Fifties. I found out that lyrics — quite pedestrian ones — were added by “Ray Charles,” but if my source is correct and they were written in 1936, that RC is not the famous one. And the lyrics aren’t worth the space here.
My window faces north-west, but I can always make it face the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet. And no, I don’t need more catsup. But thank you. The only thing that troubles me is that I cannot remember the name of this eatery: was it THE FIRE PIT? Oh, well, the music lasts longer than beer does.
I think of a performance like this as brightly colored but full of shadings, a compendium of Fifty-Second Street camaraderie brought into our century. Or, more simply, five minutes of expert joy. Notice I write expert: it’s only in the movies where Jack Webb picks up a cornet and is — voila! — proficient. For these jovial fellows and their colleagues, swing is a life’s work.
They are, from left, Brian Holland, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal (whose birthday is today), string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet. (Dear Jacob: my apologies for not swinging the camera around sufficiently to always capture you.)
And the song here is the Al Dubin – Harry Warren delight, LULU’S BACK IN TOWN.
This performance has its own extra added emotional kick. Not only is it musically wonderful, but it is a souvenir of the last time I saw this band in action, the last festival I attended. We live in hope for a swinging future, you know.
No elk in the parking lot and no double rainbows at the 2019 Evergreen Jazz Festival, but the music was full of natural wonders: especially the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, featuring Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Marc Caparone, cornet; Steve Pikal, string bass; and, playing clarinet and alto saxophone, John Otto. Here are three sprightly performances to prove that the altitude helped get people higher rather than tiring them out.
A positively jaunty WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:
A key-changing romp through THREE LITTLE WORDS:
Fats Waller’s composed-in-the-taxi 0pus of 1929, MINOR DRAG:
It will be lovely to hear this band once again in person — someday soon? And perhaps to make my way to Evergreen, Colorado, for a rewarding summer weekend of inventive hot music.
Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler were not in attendance at the Jazz Bash by the Bay on March 8, 2020, but we didn’t miss them, because the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet (Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Marc Caparone, cornet) chased the clouds away at a fraction of the cost of a Ziegfeld musical:
At the end of my teaching career, I came to feel that knowing was overrated, that the willingness to say, “Gee, I can’t really tell you,” was so liberating. I could place the burden of Knowledge tenderly on the sidewalk and scoot away, not even looking back to see if someone had picked it up.
The enlightened state of not-knowingness is even more exalted when it has a soundtrack.
Here, it’s a swinging one, provided by the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet with guest star Riley Baker, trombone — Brian Holland, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Marc Caparone, cornet. All of this spiritual shape-shifting happened at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, on March 8, 2020.
It doesn’t hurt that the spirit smiling on all this lovely business is Benny Carter: if you don’t know his 1933 recording of I NEVER KNEW, set aside some time to be dropped into bliss.
Bless these fellows who so open-heartedly share not only what they play but who they are with us.
This performance was created only five months ago by the calendar but it seems like decades have passed. But perhaps counting the days and mourning our powerlessness is just another attempt at knowing — a reliance on evidence that constricts us, like a sweater that has become too tight that we can put in the thrift-store bag and give away without a second thought? I wonder. (Wondering is an activity approved of by JAZZ LIVES, in case you have any concerns.)
To me, music like this doesn’t require much explication, and to begin to label and analyze it (in the style of Gunther Schuller) would be an insult. Here are six of my friend-heroes — guest Riley Baker, trombone; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet; Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; the very amused Steve Pikal, string bass — improvising on an Irving Berlin classic, BLUE SKIES. (The place? Jazz Bash by the Bay, Monterey, California. The time? Before the world changed.)
But notice how much respect these jazz improvisers — who, in this century, are supposed to be enthralled by harmonic density and innovation — give to Berlin’s melody, even as they are turning phrases this way and that. Hear how six instrumentalists, by eschewing the ensemble-solos-ensemble format, create an ever-shifting small orchestra, full of variations of texture . . . so that the performance is fulfilling rather than formulaic.
Listen, watch, and delight:
They really know how to do it. And “we’ll be together again.” I guarantee it, to quote the late Justin Wilson, king of the properly-made roux.
Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman
Here is some wonderful music from one of my favorite bands, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, appearing at the Evergreen Jazz Festival (that’s Evergreen, Colorado) in July 2019. For this weekend, the quintet was Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Marc Caparone, cornet; John Otto, clarinet and alto saxophone; Steve Pikal, string bass.
I might be paraphrasing Yogi Berra, but this piece of music is so famous that no one every plays it anymore. I’m referring to the 1923 CHARLESTON, words and music by Cecil Mack and Jimmy Johnson, as noted below:
In my childhood, when several television shows purported to reproduce the ambiance and music of “The Roaring Twenties,” one by that title starring Dorothy Provine, CHARLESTON was played and sung often. But now, I can’t remember the last time I heard a jazz band play or sing it. (Note: I know there are wonderful recordings, and as I write this, the Original Boulevardiers of Bucharest are driving audiences wild with their rendition, but you don’t need to write in.) Here’s the HCJQ’s frisky version:
and a cool tender IMPROVISATION on a theme recorded but not composed by Fats Waller — the performers are John Otto and Steve Pikal:
Another HOT DANCE (as it would say on the record label), KRAZY KAPERS, perhaps harking back to the comic strip? — variations on the theme of DIGA DIGA DOO:
This band knocks me out, song after song. I saw them most recently at the Jazz Bash by the Bay . . . and you will get to see and hear them also, more . . . .
Let me be plain: before the skies darkened to the shade they are now, I flew from New York to Monterey in March to immerse myself in the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay, and I am deeply glad that I did. Here are the first three performances I saw and captured — by one of my favorite bands, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, which is Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet.
MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS — now, for most of us, a dream out of reach:
Rodgers and Hart, 1927:
and the vengeance song that sounds like a love ballad to those unaware of the lyrics:
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my mask and gloves on to go get my mail. It’s the thought that someday soon I might see and hear my friends play jazz again that keeps me from eating the decorative molding. Be well, dear readers.
DINAH is one of the standbys of the swing-jazz-vocal repertoire, and has been so since Ethel Waters introduced it in 1925.
But it has been played faster and faster since then. Here it’s completely groovy, performed by the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, featuring Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Marc Caparone, cornet; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Brian Holland, piano, at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, on March 7, 2020.
Harry Lim texted me to say how much he approves of this, by the way. He wants to sign the HCQ to a Keynote Records contract but is having trouble sending the paperwork.
This commercialized mirth might strike you as extreme, but bear with me.
Perhaps this will resonate more effectively. The OKeh sleeve makes me smile.
This song has been turned into a terrible cliche through ninety years of routine performance, but this effort from March 8 — which seems like ages ago! — takes me right back to Billie and Louis. The cheerful creators here are Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Brian Holland, piano; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Marc Caparone, cornet; special guest, Riley Baker, trombone. All this goodness took place at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California.
As an aside, I’d always thought of SMILING as a post-Wall Street crash song, but not only was Louis’ recording before the market imploded, but the first recording, by Bill Carlsen’s Orchestra, dates from May 1928 in Chicago. (Thanks to Charles Richdale for this prompt answer to my research query.) So the suggestion that smiling built community where tears did not was in its own way timeless. I hope readers can find reason to grin.
In the process of assembling this blog — which often feels like a small-town newspaper — I encountered this sweet 1928 recording, new to me, which I include because it begins with the verse. And I admire Seger Ellis. SMILING has gotten criticized by the “true jazz connoisseurs” as saccharine, over-simple: a song that needed improvisers to raise it above the mundane. I’d disagree: sometimes a sweet uncomplicated tonic is just the thing to settle one’s nerves.
A friend said to me a few days ago, only half-joking, “Could you hold down the optimism a bit? It’s getting on my nerves.” I apologized, but these days, “Latch on to the affirmative!” is my motto.
Dawn Lambeth is one of my favorite singers, and she keeps getting better: I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing her again at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay earlier this month, and she delivered some telling words that have only gotten more relevant. With her are Steve Pikal, string bass; Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Marc Caparone, cornet — a group of amiable ruffians known as the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet. And here they are!
This is understandably an arid time for live jazz in performance, but I will keep sending the sermon through this blog, with many delightful moments from the Jazz Bash by the Bay, less than two weeks ago.
Above, the musicians. Below, the text for the mellow sermon.
Now, this 1930 song seems a charming period piece. How many people, ninety years later, know the archaic vocabulary painfully current shortly after the stock market crash? It owes its immortality to Louis, as so much music does:
Marc Caparone acknowledges our debt to Mister Strong in his own way, with Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass:
Some concepts never die: I just heard someone speak of “being emotionally invested” in another person. May our psychic portfolios always gain in value.
And, speaking of value, the Holland-Coots Quintet will be appearing at the 40th Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, this March — and the Musician of the Year will be Mister Caparone. Good sounds await.
It’s never too early to get prepared for joy, especially the varieties that the Jazz Bash by the Bay delivers so generously. (An All-Events badge is available at a discount before December 31, so if thrift makes your eyes gleam, check here.) Now.
I’ve been attending this March festival every year since 2011 (I missed 2018) and have fond memories. I could write a good deal about the pleasures of this grouping of musicians and fans, and the pleasures of being able to walk around a truly charming town center . . . or the pleasure of being a guest at the Portola Hotel and Spa, with the music just a trot away, but I will simply direct you to the Bash’s website, where you can find out such useful information as the dates (March 6-8), the band schedule (not available yet), ticket prices, and the bands themselves.
For me, the bands and guest stars are the reason to come to a particular festival, so I will list them here (as of January 2020) so you can see the delights to be had. First, the Musician of the Year is my hero Marc Caparone, so even though I doubt there will be a parasol-laden coronation, I want to be there to see the rites and praises. Then, guest stars Bob Draga, Brian Holland, Danny Coots, Dawn Lambeth, Eddie Erickson, Gary Ryan, Jeff Barnhart, Jerry Krahn, and Katie Cavera. The bands: Blue Street Jazz Band, Bye Bye Blues Boys Band, Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, Cornet Chop Suey, Crescent Katz, Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Fast Mama Excitement, Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Ivory&Gold, Le Jazz Hot, Midiri Brothers, Sierra Seven, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, We Three (Thursday only), Yve Evans and Company, and the Zydeco Flames.
Looking at the 2019 schedule, the Bash offered four simultaneous sessions for full twelve-hour days on Friday and Saturday, and a half day on Sunday . . . one hundred and fifty sessions, including full bands, singers, solo and duo pianos, youth bands, sets for amateur jammers, and more. Even someone like myself, who doesn’t fell compelled to see and hear everything, finds it a delightfully exhausting experience. There’s a separate Thursday-night dance and an appearance by We Three, and I quote: “Kick off Jazz Bash by the Bay on Thursday, March 5, 2020, with a big band dance party featuring Clicktrax Jazz Orchestra. Attendees will enjoy danceable swing and traditional jazz at the Portola Hotel and Spa from 7:30 to 11 pm. Admission is $25.00. Also, in a Special One-Night-Only appearance, the hit trio We3 featuring Bob Draga, Jeff Barnhart, and Danny Coots will be playing from 7 to 8:30 pm. Admission is $30.00. Add the dance for $20 more. All tickets can be purchased by phone, mail, online or at the door.”
Did you notice that there is an Early Bird All-Events Badge at a discount if you order before December 31, 2019? Yes, I repeat myself: details here.
For me, a post advertising a particular festival is not effective unless some musical evidence can be included. I broke one of my rules — that is, there are musicians in the 2011-19 videos below who do not appear at this year’s Bash, and I apologize to them if anyone’s feelings are bruised. But I started to go through the 200+ videos I’d posted of various Monterey Bashes, and some of them were do fine that I couldn’t leave them out. You’ll get a panoramic sense of the wide variety of good, lively, inventive music that happens here. And each video has a detailed description of who’s playing and singing, and when it happened.
an old song, swung, 2019:
Becky and the blues:
the late Westy Westenhofer:
Ivory&Gold (Jeff and Anne Barnhart):
Paolo Alderighi, Phil Flanigan, Jeff Hamilton:
Katie Cavera and the Au Brothers:
Bob Schulz and the Frisco Jazz Band:
Allan Vache, John Sheridan, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, Ed Metz:
Hot Strings at Monterey 2011:
a jam session with Bryan Shaw, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, Marc Caparone, John Reynolds, Katie Cavera, Ralf Reynolds:
Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Jeff Hamilton, performing Sonny’s composition that insures that no rodents visit the Portola during the Bash:
It might seem a long way away, but it isn’t. And it’s a truly enjoyable event.
Marc Caparone and Ricky Riccardi, considering important matters — a Louis Armstrong trumpet — a few years ago.
I don’t know if people look to pianist Jess Stacy as a model for spiritual enlightenment, but perhaps they should. Yes, he’s rightly known for his solo on SING SING SING at the 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert, and for subtle but memorable playing for decades, but he had a revelation in mid-life that has been one of my cherished stories since I first read it. I am paraphrasing because the book it comes from is in New York and I am in San Diego, but I have it close to my heart.
He had been successful as a Goodman sideman but had made the mistake of marrying Lee Wiley — they were spectacularly unsuited for each other, a story you can explore elsewhere on the blog — they had divorced, unpleasantly. And as Jess tells it, he was sitting on the bed in a hotel room, ruminating, despairing, feeling that there was little point in going on. He could, he thought, follow the lead of his friend Bix Beiderbecke, and “crawl into a bottle and die,” which had its own appeal, its own seductive melodramatic pull. But Stacy, although in misery, was curious about life and what it might offer. Musing more, he eventually came to a decision, and spoke to himself, briskly not not sternly, “All right, Stacy. Time to make new memories!”and he got off the bed and lived a fulfilling life.
I hear in that story something that we all have faced whether we are sitting on a hotel bed or not: stuck in our own lives, do we hug the past like a cherished stuffed bunny or do we “move on,” and see what happens? It’s not easy. Despair has a powerful attraction, and memories can feel like a suit of clothing that weighs tons — stifling ye familiar. And let us say what no one wants to say, that the future is always mildly terrifying as well as alluring.
All of this has been running through my own mind (I am not in danger of ending it all through alcohol, never fear) and I have told the story to a few friends in the past week. The wonderful trumpeter Marc Caparone provided a musical illustration of it just a few days ago at the San Diego Jazz Fest — with Brian Holland, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums — in his performance of MEMORIES OF YOU, a very dear song by Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf. We don’t hear Razaf’s lyrics, but those who know the song well will have them as a subliminal second theme.
And here’s Marc’s very personal exploration of these themes: a model of passion and control, Louis-like but not Louis-imitative, music that I found very moving, as did others at the San Diego Jazz Fest . . .beauty at once somber and uplifting:
I think of Bobby Hackett, saying of Louis, “Do you know how hard it is to make melody come that alive?”
Thank you, Marc, Brian, Steve, and Danny — as well as Eubie and Andy, and of course Mister Stacy.
Let us hold the past for what’s dear in it, what it has to teach us, but let us not sit on the edge of the bed, musing, forever. Make new memories.
Ann Ronell’s 1932 song is a terribly sad one, a story of romance that failed. Here is the verse that few sing — perhaps because it is so openly melancholy:
Oh Lord, why did you send the darkness to me? Are the shadows forever to be? Where’s the light I’m longing to see? Oh Lord, once we met by the old willow tree Now you’ve gone and left nothing to me Nothing but a sweet memory.
But the instrumental version I present here — although its hues are dark — does not leave this listener feeling despondent. Rather, I admire the technical, lyrical, and emotional mastery of these players: Brian Holland, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; John Otto, reeds; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums, in this performance recorded at the 2019 Evergreen Jazz Festival:
One reason I call this post PARADOXES OF FEELING is that the five people playing such gloriously sad music are not in themselves depressives — to them it’s another artistic opportunity to enter an emotional world, fully inhabit it, and then move on to something of a different hue, perhaps CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN, and “be” that song as well.
Another reason, more personal, is that tomorrow morning, when it is still quite dark, I will be driving to the airport to travel to the San Diego Jazz Fest, where this band and others will work marvels right in front of us. The other bands? Hal Smith’s “On the Levee Jazz Band,” Grand Dominion, the Yerba Buena Stompers, John Royen’s New Orleans group, the Carl Sonny Leyland trio, the Chicago Cellar Boys, and too many others to mention . . . to say nothing of attending everyone’s set. I’ll see my friends and heroes Jeff Hamilton, Kris Tokarski, Clint Baker, John Gill, Katie Cavera, and others — even if only in passing in the halls.
If I’m not laid low by a spoiled avocado or attacked by an enraged fan who wants to know why his favorite band doesn’t receive sufficient coverage on JAZZ LIVES, I will return with evidence of beauties, sad or joyous, to share with you.
For those of us who keep music in our hearts, this 1934 song is special.
Yes, it is a carpe diem love song, but it is also about how nothing lasts forever. It inevitably leads me back to Harvey Shapiro’s poem about Charlie Shavers, reprinted here with apologies for copyright infringement:
That melancholy sharply-realized poem leads me back to these moments in time:
I don’t know the remedy for impermanence — but, as Doctors Holland, Coots, Caparone, Otto, and Pikal enact here: “Take your saddest song and make sure it swings. You don’t have unlimited chances to swing your song.”
Away from the piano, Paolo abd Stehanie by Ugo Galassi.
Perhaps some readers will need reminding that “Stephanie” and “Paolo” are wonderful pianists, singly or together, and a happily married couple, known to us as Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi— dear friends of mine for many years. They are also two of the busiest people I know, which is a good thing, so that it was a special pleasure to be on the Stomptime jazz cruise with them last spring and get a chance to watch them, away from the piano, tell their stories in a morning interview session, the bright idea of pianist-organizer Brian Holland, who has many bright ideas and is also the discreet interlocutor here (you’ll also hear from pianist Jeff Barnhart asking questions).
I confess, before another word is read, that the title of this blogpost is inaccurate: fact-checkers and Corrections Officers in the audience will note that the three interview segments add up to slightly less than sixty minutes. I apologize humbly, but shall add on some video-music at the end of the post so that no one feels cheated.
Here they are, with Marty Eggers and Danny Coots, at Rossmoor in 2014:
Paolo and Stephanie don’t disappoint, so if they are in your neighborhood (that’s anywhere from Central Pennsylvania to Switzerland) you should get out of your chair and see them.
The Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet at Monterey, March 2019.
I need say no more . . . except Brian Holland, piano or keyboard; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone or clarinet; Marc Caparone, trumpet. Recorded at the Hot Jazz Jubilee in Sacramento, California, on August 30, 2019, by RaeAnn Hopkins Berry. Thanks to everyone!
ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (with some Basie and Fats touches):
BERNIE’S TUNE, which takes its leisurely time, happily, making its way uptown:
Have something you want to get off your chest? CONFESSIN’ is good for the soul:
As are vigorous heartfelt avowals of love:
and something sweet — theme music for rebuilding that cottage:
From a set on September 2, a romping BLUE LOU:
And the gorgeous song that Louis took as his band’s first theme song, HOME:
To me, this versatile quintet is operating at the very peak. Have you seen them live? It’s even better . . . .