Tag Archives: Bridget Calzaretta

BIXFEST 2012 IS ON THE WAY! (March 8-11, 2012)

I’ve never met Phil Pospychala.  But his reverence for Bix Beiderbecke, his music, and his world goes far beyond the sweet passivity of someone listening to his beloved records at home.  No, Phil has been creating and hosting his Tributes to Bix for more than two decades: this one is subtitled THE DREAM CONTINUES: PART XXIII.

That’s a serious thing.

You can find out more immediately by visiting here.   But permit me to share a few bits of information.

This year’s TRIBUTE is held in Racine, Wisconsin — and it will feature Andy Schumm, the heroic young man of jazz, with two “new” bands: his Monkey Chasers and the Scrap-Iron Jazzerinos.  The lissome and swinging singer Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke will be coming back to these shores.  Rare films, rare records to hear and to buy, a lecture by Hans Eekhoff on sound restoration and other pertinent matters; a film-demonstration of Twenties dance styles by the Queen of the Dicty Glide, Bridget Calzaretta . . . cakes in the shape of famous Bix records, contests, a magic show . . . a bus tour of sites related to Bee Palmer, Don Murray, and much more.  Josh Duffee, John Otto, Dave Bock, and Jamaica Knauer will be there.

The highest priced admission (Patron with the bus tour included) is $100.  The site will answer every question you might have — and raise some you never thought of — but you can also email Phil at bixguy@hotmail.com.  It’s advised that you register at the Marriott by February 14 (If music be the food of love, play on!) to ensure that you’ll get a room.

And here’s even more contact information:  the BIX phone hotline is (847) 996-0246.  There’s a reservation form and price schedule on the website, and checks should be mailed to Phil Pospychala at 15745 W. Birchwood Lane, Libertyville, Illinois 60048-5101.  You can also pay by Paypal.

The hotel details are as follows:  Marriott – Racine, WI (Hwy.20) 7111 Washington Ave.  Room Reservations – (262) 886-6100.  Toll Free – (800) 228-9290.  Tell the pleasant young person who takes your call that you are with the  “Bix Fest” to guarantee the special rate of $89, and be eligible for prize drawing of free room.

Register on line – www.marriott.com — type in Group Code – “bixbixa”; the group code field is on the Racine-Marriott homepage on the lower left side.  The $89 rate and room information will then pop up.  The closest airport is   Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.  More details about bus, shuttle . . . are available on the website.

These festive events don’t go on eternally, so don’t wait.  Be a friend.  “With pleasure” will be all yours.

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THEMES AND VARIATIONS: THE 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Now that I have posted about eighty video performances here — thanks to Flemming Thorbye, Elin Smith, Jonathan David Holmes, and Michael Stevens — I can write a few lines about the Classic Jazz Party in general, and why it was such a remarkable experience.

It wasn’t a formal occasion by any means — in fact, it was distinguished by the friendly, comfortable interplay between musicians and listeners, sitting down to breakfast with one another.  But the CJP was the result of a good deal of behind-the-scenes planning that blossomed forth in music.

All jazz parties and festivals require a great deal of work that the person listening to the bands is rarely aware of — planning that begins more than a year in advance and continues well after the particular party is over: lining up musicians, agreeing with them on times and dates and payment, making sure that they can get to the party and have suitable accomodations, taking care of last-minute crises and more.  When you see the person in charge of one of these events and wonder why (s)he has no time to stop and chat, to say nothing of sitting down for a meal or a set of music, these are some of the reasons.

But the CJP has a thematic underpinning — which is to say Mike Durham likes jam sessions, and one happened each night in the Victory Pub, but he has a deep emotional commitment to the arching history of jazz and an equal desire to see that no one is forgotten.  So rather than grouping six or seven able players and singers on the stand with no organizing principle in mind (thus, the blues in Bb, RHYTHM changes, and a series of solo features), Mike Durham has created — with the help of his equally enthusiastic and scholarly players — a series of small thematic concert tributes.

I will only list the names so that you can understand the scope of the CJP: Clarence Williams, Bix Beiderbecke, novelty piano, Jelly Roll Morton, Bennie Moten, territory bands, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelly, Lionel Hampton, Adrian Rollini, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Annette Hanshaw, naughty songs, multi-lingual pop songs, Chicago reedmen, Billie Holiday, percussion, the ukulele, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, King Oliver, stride piano, the tenor saxophone, Bessie Smith, the Rhythmic Eight, John Kirby, Jabbo Smith, Valaida Snow, the Rhythmakers.

You can thus understand why the weekend was both great fun and educational without ever being academic or pedantic.  An immersion in living jazz history — reaching back one hundred years but so firmly grounded in the present moment — loving evocations without any hint of the museum about them.

And there are more sets like those being planned for 2012.

Here is the estimable Flemming Thorbye’s tribute to the whole weekend — his evocative still photographs capturing aspects of thirty-three varied sets — with an Ellingtonian background recorded on the spot.  And don’t give up before it’s through, because Flemming has a delicious surprise at the end: a segment of the Friday night jam session in the Victory Pub, with Andy Schumm leading the troops ably through CRAZY RHYTHM, with Ms. Calzaretta shaking that thing to the beat:

Learn more about the delights in store this year here.

“EAST ST. LOUIS TOODLE-OO”: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS PLAY DUKE ELLINGTON at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

November 5, 2011, Saturday night at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was a highlight — the crowd cheered, with good reason!

With Mr. Nichols at the piano and occasionally exercising his vocal cords, the band included Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, and Bent Persson, trumpets; Alistair Allan, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Wheatley, banjo and guitar; Richard Pite, string bass; Nick Ward, drums; Cecile McLorin Salvant, vocals.

THE MOOCHE (featuring the Jungle Band sound and the earthy percussion of Nick Ward, as well as a beautiful alto excursion by M. Bonnel before Rico masterfully growls us to the finish line):

CREOLE LOVE CALL (beginning with Cecile’s wordless vocal — a la Baby Cox or Adelaide Hall, then the mournful sound of Alistair Allan, the dangerously-muted Rico and the multi-talented Mauro on clarinet.  Hear that reed section!):

Then something riotous, borrowing some of its impetus from — you guessed it, OLD MAN RIVER — the 1930 showpiece OLD MAN BLUES, which is a famous film highlight from the Amos ‘n’ Andy film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK: Alistair Allen becomes Tricky Sam; Mauro Porro does his Harry Carney; Keith Nichols strides out; Jean-Francois Bonnel, on soprano, soars; Bent Persson roars:

The 1932 version of THE SHEIK OF ARABY, indebted far more to Bechet than Valentino, features the usual brilliant suspects — adding Andy Woon (as Cootie), Keith (as himself — with commentary by Rico), and Mauro (as Hodges on soprano) to the solo order:

TRUCKIN’ brings Mr. Nichols back in the vocal spotlight, and there’s a solo spot for Matthias Seuffert on clarinet — with a multi-media opportunity for audience participation later on. (Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro are truckin’ on down on the tiny dance floor.):

IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING) begins with the verse by Keith, then Cecile McLorin Salvant joins in to reiterate the philosophy — best embodied by that searing trumpet section:

An encore, COTTON CLUB STOMP, showed off that this band still had lots of energy. (That’s Jonathan David Holmes in dark shirt and glasses, near the stage on the right):

The Maestro would have been pleased.  See these videos and many more at http://www.thorbye.net.

TWO VIEWS OF KANSAS CITY JAZZ: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith)

Often we associate “Kansas City jazz” with the free-flowing style of the middle Thirties.  But there was a regional style even before John Hammond heard the Basie band at the Reno Club on his car radio.

Here are two examples, brought to life at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by pianist /arranger Keith Nichols and his Blue Devils — a band consisting of  Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, trumpets; Steve Andrews, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Richard Pite, string bass; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Nick Ward, drums.  You might also catch a glimpse of dancing couples — one unidentified and vigorous; the other Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro, off to the right.

Before there was Basie, there was Moten — in whose band Basie was the second pianist.  Here’s a sample of what Bennie Moten’s band was recording in 1925, KATER STREET RAG, with solos by Jean-Francois Bonnel (baritone), Alistair Allan, Bent Persson, and Rico Tomasso:

Four years later, there was Walter Page’s Blue Devils, here embodied in BLUE DEVIL BLUES, with solos by Bent, Steve Andrews (clarinet), and Andy Woon:

There’s no sense in talking about “progress” in art, otherwise art criticism becomes a staged wrestling match, Stravinsky vs. Mozart, and both performances here make perfect aesthetic sense.  But in four years the rhythmic feel had certainly changed. . . . moving towards the Basie band at the Famous Door and onwards.

NORMAN FIELD AND FRIENDS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

Norman Field is a treasure, no matter what instrument he’s playing (he also sings and annotates with equal ease).  Here are three too-short proofs of his hot mastery.

SOME OF THESE DAYS, from a tribute to Venuti, Lang, and Rollini, features Mike Piggott (violin), Keith Nichols (piano), Martin Wheatley (guitar), Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone), Raymond Grasier (vibraphone), Josh Duffee (drums), Bridget Calzaretta and Jonathan David Holmes (terpsichorean urges):

THAT’S A PLENTY is Norman’s tribute to the youthful Benny Goodman.  Here he’s expertly accompanied by Keith, and the astonishing drummer Nick Ward — every move a picture! — doing his own version of Twenties Chicago drumming, with four on the floor for certain:

and THE MAN FROM THE SOUTH is the official tribute to Rube Bloom and his Bayou Boys (it’s the law — every jazz party has to have one) by “The Three Pods of Pepper,” here Norman on alto as well as clarinet; Martin Wheatley (banjo); Frans Sjostrom (bass sax); the ebullient Debbie Arthurs (percussion):

Thanks once more to the generous Flemming Thorbye for these videos: you can see more here.

“DEAR BIX”: ANDY SCHUMM and his GANG at WHITLEY BAY, November 4, 2011 (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

Young Mr. Schumm may be one of the most avidly-recorded musicians in jazz, but he deserves every pixel and gigabyte for his clarion playing and easy, thoughtful leadership (watch how casually and effectively he shapes a performance onstage).

Here Andy and his most excellent colleagues create a swinging homage to that other young man from Davenport, Iowa.  All this took place just after lunch on the first day of the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

Once again I am relying on the kindness of video-friends for this material: the very generous Elin Smith and the globe-trotting Flemming Thorbye.

Flemming and I knew each other through YouTube and through email, but this was our first encounter in person: he’s just as amiable live as he is in cyberspace, no small accomplishment.  You can see much more of his jazz — including one of the best bands I know, the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys, here.

The Gang features Andy on cornet,with Norman Field, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Martin Wheatley, banjo and guitar; Paul Asaro, piano; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.  I mean no disrespect to the players, now dead, whose voices we hear on the OKehs, Victors, and Columbias — but this Gang swings along with a grace that comes from their current vantage point on the music they inhabit.

An easy-rocking SUNDAY (Elin) begins with an instant improvisation on the theme by Norman on C-melody, then everyone gets a taste: admire Martin Wheatley’s solo and backing to Frans, then the young daredevil Kristoffer:

CLARINET MARMALADE (Thorbye) starts hot and doesn’t let up — enjoy Norman’s ruminative second chorus and Paul Asaro’s James P. Johnson flourishes. (A digression: the balding fellow with a video camera at the bottom right is your humble correspondent — watching yourself from the back is an odd experience. Memo to self in 2012: try to sit still):

BALTIMORE (Thorbye) is another of those endearing Twenties songs named for a dance craze that might never have existed.  Or have we explored this question already?  The music, the music transcends. Praise to the Master, Frans Sjostrom, and his colleagues in the back row:

For those who like exercises in comparative viewing, here’s Elin’s take on BALTIMORE:

And — thanks to that Queen of the Dance, Bridget Calzaretta, here’s a link to silent footage of happy Brits doing the BALTIMORE, synchronized to a Fred Rich record of the song:

Hoagy Carmichael’s FREE WHEELING, later RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (Thorbye) is taken at just the right tempo — with the ghosts of Jelly Roll Morton and Jack Teagarden visiting for brief interludes.  Those in the know will catch and laugh at Andy’s editorial commentary during the breaks in the final chorus:

SINGIN’ THE BLUES was one of the Bix records that caught and held me four decades ago — this version has much of the same balance between forward propulsion and sweet musing.  Thanks to Elin:

This version of YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME (Elin) doesn’t have Bing, but Andy and Norman embark on a chase chorus that’s original but won’t scare the children:

THAT’S MY WEAKNESS NOW (Thorbye) is — if we’re going to be candid — a bouncy Twenties tune without much scope.  But, once heard, I can’t get it out of my system.  This version stuck, too — pay close attention to Josh, pushing the band along — not that these players need pushing!:

LOUISIANA (Elin) unites Bix, Bing, and Basie –a wholly trinity of creative music:

More to come!

DANCE, SIN, and HEAT

 no sinUsing Walter Donaldson’s melody and Edgar Leslie’s lyrics, Spats Langham, Mike Durham, Paul Munnery, Norman Field, Martin Litton, Frans Sjostrom, and Debbie Arthurs explain this trio of concepts to the crowd at Whitley Bay, even though it was pleasantly cool in the room. 

But two pairs of dancers — one of them stride wizard Paul Asaro (in the checked shirt) and the energetic Bridget Calzaretta — didn’t need the song’s lyrics to encourage them.  (If the other couple sees this and wants to identify themselves, they can have their names immortalized here, too.)

And for those of you who’d like to have something to sing to yourself as you mop your brow, here are the lyrics, both verse and chorus:

Verse: Dancing may do this and that, and help you take off lots of fat.

But I’m no friend of dancing when it’s hot.

So if you are a dancing fool, who loves to dance but can’t keep cool,

Bear in mind the idea that I’ve got.

Chorus: When it gets too hot for comfort, and you can’t get ice cream cones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When the lazy syncopation of the music softly moans,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

The polar bears aren’t green up in Greenland, they’ve got the right idea.

They think it’s great to refrigerate while we all cremate down here.

Just be like those Bamboo Babies, in the South Sea tropic zones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Chorus: When you’re calling up your sweetie in those hot house telephones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When you’re on a crowded dance floor, near those red hot saxophones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Just take a look at the girls while they’re dancing. Notice the way that they’re dressed.

They wear silken clothes without any hose and nobody knows the rest.

If a gal wears X-ray dresses, and shows everything she owns,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.