Tag Archives: Bruce Rollo

EXTREMELY HEALTHY FATS! (THANKS TO JEFF BARNHART and FRIENDS)

No, not these.

avocado

Or this.

olive-oil

They are certainly good for you.  But I mean this.

fats jeff

It’s a recent CD on the Lake Records label, under the leadership of the irresistibly talented pianist / singer / arranger Jeff Barnhart, with the assistance of four wonderful players, who summon up all the many sides and angles of Thomas “Fats” Waller with love rather than caricature.

By “caricature” I mean that Fats Waller was — by definition — a powerful personality, but someone who could be reduced to a series of outlandish gestures by musicians who didn’t understand him very well: rapid-fire showy stride piano, high-power clowning and singing, all the “let’s have a party in three minutes” we hear on many of his recordings.  Those “tributes,” and I’ve heard them, begin with the derby cocked over one eve, the same four or five songs, and they end at high volume.  To quote Chubby Jackson on a satirical record circa 1945, “Wasn’t that swell?”

But the essence of Fats Waller is more subtle and more varied than any clownish portrait in broad strokes, and Jeff Barnhart — an improviser / entertainer who gets beneath the obvious surfaces — has long understood that Waller was equal parts stride virtuoso and soulful musician — singer, pianist, composer. . . someone with a heart as large as his famous girth.  This isn’t to say that REFLECTIONS OF FATS doesn’t swing — but that it shows a deep awareness of Fats Waller’s depths.  Jeff hasn’t devoted himself entirely to the esoteric: the disc offers AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW, YOUR FEET’S TOO BIG, BLUE  TURNING GREY OVER YOU, THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’, and TWELFTH STREET RAG — but it also gives us the lesser-known compositions: a meaty RUMP STEAK SERENADE, KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL, HOLD MY HAND, MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’, MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS.  Three great delights of this disc are YOU MUST BE LOSING YOUR MIND (by Fats and Ed Kirkeby), AT TWILIGHT, and DO YOU HAVE TO GO? (both composed by Fats and his wife Anita).  AT TWILIGHT alone is sweetly memorable.

Jeff Barnhart is a splendid stride pianist, swing pianist, and bandleader — his ensemble playing, his support of soloists, is both uplifting and delicious.  And his singing is both original and Waller-imbued: he has some of the Master’s insinuating nasal croon that makes a Barnhart vocal both compelling theatre and a great deal of fun.  He doesn’t need the derby, in short.  On this CD he has assembled a neat band (shades of Fats’ Bluebird / Victor “Rhythm” but even more compact) of UK swing stars: John Hallam, reeds; Jamie Brownfield, trumpet; Bruce Rollo, string bass; Nick Ward, drums.  The latter two are a better rhythm team than you’d hear on some Thirties recordings — having seen them in tandem and individually at Whitley Bay, I know they are solid senders.  Nick Ward is sometimes pigeonholed as a “vintage drummer,” someone restricted by law and decency to his temple blocks, but he can swing out in the best style: Slick Jones would be proud.  John Hallam can boot things along in the appropriately vehement manner, but I was most impressed by his tender, quiet playing (I thought of Harold Ashby) on the slower numbers.  And Jamie Brownfield was only nineteen when this CD was made.  He is a great player now, and I hope to hear more from him.  And — as an aside — no one copies Autrey or Sedric here.

It’s a wonderful CD, full of surprises — with lovely annotations by Ray Smith and delightful recorded sound.  You can obtain a copy here  — I gather it is also available on iTunes, if this little band can fit in your earbuds.  Consult with your audiologist first.

Now, I don’t have something that directly pertains to REFLECTIONS OF FATS to share with you . . . . but I can offer this.  Jeff and his wife Anne (a splendid flautist and singer) who bill themselves as IVORY AND GOLD, have recently posted some performance videos on Jeff’s brand-new YouTube  channel. With their playful seriousness and serious playfulness, they make music that Mr. Waller would have liked.

Here’s their version — too short! — of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’:

May your happiness increase.

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“I’D LOVE IT”: WHITLEY BAY JOYS — 2011, 2012, 2013 . . . !

I’ve attended the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party for the last few years . . . and always had an extraordinary experience . . . meeting and hearing players who don’t often make it to the United States, including Jean-Francois Bonnel, Bent Persson, Frans Sjostrom, Michel Bastide, Nick Ward, Norman Field, Spats Langham, Michael McQuaid, John Scurry, Jason Downes, Matthias Seuffert, Enrico Tomasso, Jacob Ullberger, and two dozen other luminaries — even musicians from the US I don’t encounter often enough, such as Andy Schumm, Josh Duffee, and Jeff Barnhart.

The 2012 Jazz Party is sold out, but if you want a portable audio sampling of the 2011 Party, I urge you to snap up a copy of this limited edition CD . . . only 100 copies were produced.

The CD was recorded live at the 2011 Party by Torstein Kubban, and features this stellar assortment of players: Michel Bastide, Mike Durham, Bent Persson, Andy Schumm, Enrico Tomasso, Andy Woon, Alistair Allan, Kristoffer Kompen, Paul Munnery, David Sager, Steve Andrews, Bernard Anetherieu, Michel Bescont, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Norman Field, Mauro Porro, Matthias Seuffert, Paul Asaro, Jon Penn, Keith Nichols, Martin Seck, Jean-Pierre Dubois, Phillippe Guignier, Keith Stephen, Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, Christian LeFevre,Henry Lemaire, Bruce Rollo, Phil Rutherford, Debbie Arthurs, Josh Duffee, Richard Pite, Nick Ward, Raymond Grasier, Mike Piggott, Frans Sjostrom, Caroline Irwin, Cecile McLorin Salvant.

And the songs?  Nothing “psychological,” as Ruby Braff once said.  I’D LOVE IT / I GOT RHYTHM / SWEET SUE / I DON’T KNOW IF I’M COMIN’ OR GOIN’ / COTTON CLUB STOMP / WOLVERINE BLUES / VIPER’S DRAG / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / THANKS A MILLION / STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER / WHEN YOU LEAVE ME ALONE TO PINE / SOUTH / SNOWY MORNING BLUES / BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL / ALLIGATOR CRAWL / FRONT AND CENTER / OH, BABY! / WILDFLOWER RAG / CORNFED / BUGLE CALL RAG — a nice mix of small bands, big bands, three-tenor extravaganzas, vocals, novelty showcases . . . not a dull minute in the seventy-eight contained on the CD.

You can purchase a copy of the souvenir CD by visiting here.  Your purchase helps fund future Classic Jazz Parties, but the price of the disc isn’t prohibitive.

On to the future.  The 2013 CJP will run from November 1-3, and the following musicians are being considered . . . which will give us all something to dream about:

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Enrico Tomasso (UK), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Andy Woon (UK)

Trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK)

Reeds: Aurélie Tropez (France), Stéphane Gillot (France), Claus Jacobi (Germany) , Norman Field (UK), Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Mauro Porro (Italy)

Piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Jeff Barnhart (USA), Morten Gunnar Larssen (Norway), Martin Seck (Germany)

Banjo/Guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Martin Wheatley (UK), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Keith Stephen (UK)

String Bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Malcolm Sked (UK)

Brass Bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Jean-Philippe Palma (France)

Drums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Julien Richard (France), Nick Ward (UK)

Bass Sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden)

Violin: Mike Piggott (UK)

Vocals: Daryl Sherman (USA), Caroline Irwin (UK), Spats Langham (UK)

and you can visit here to see the “themes” being mulled over for 2013 — because, as you may already know, the CJP is remarkable in its intense focus.  Some jazz parties get wonderful results by merely putting a group of musicians onstage and saying, in effect, “You have 45 minutes to do whatever you’d like.”  The CJP arranges its musicians thematically — so there might be a Jelly Roll Morton trio, a Lionel Hampton small-group session, a recreated McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, the Rhythmakers come again, and so on.  It’s not a dry historical lesson — more like a pageant of jazz history, alive and exuberant.

So, I encourage you to do “all of the above” if possible.  You’ll love it.  Or them.

May your happiness increase.

VIBRAPHONIA: RAYMOND GRASIER and CO. at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith and Flemnming Thorbye)

Leaving aside Red Norvo, the obvious subject for this tribute would be Lionel Hampton, and a few of these performances are aimed that way, but the real honors go to the neglected Thirties recordings Adrian Rollini made for Victor and Vocalion, on vibraphone.

This set was the idea of Frans Sjostrom, the noble bass saxophonist who brought his horn onstage late in the program.  The band at the start was Andy Schumm, trumpet; Steve Andrews, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Paul Asaro, piano; Mike Piggott, violin; Philippe Guignier, guitar; Bruce Rollo, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

The first two selections are loose-limbed jam sessions on familiar changes — performances that recall the imperishable 1937-41 records that Hampton made for Victor:

I GOT RHYTHM (Elin):

ROSETTA (Elin):

Frans brought his bass saxophone onstage and gave the other horns a rest for the Rollini SWING LOW (Elin) — which doesn’t go where one would expect it to:

For me, the highlight of the set was their version of SMALL FRY, which harks back to a lovely 1938 recording Rollini made for Vocalion featuring Bobby Hackett, whose place Andy Schumm takes for an interval.  (Thorbye):

I’d like to see some bands in the States take on this tune — it has its own life!  Thanks again to Elin Smith, “elinshouse” on YouTube, and Flemming Thorbye, “thorbye” in the same place, for their willingness to offer their videos to JAZZ LIVES.

RHYTHM SAVED THE WORLD

This kind of rhythm, especially. 

Sir Robert Cox (known as “Cousin Bob,” more informally) pointed out these YouTube romps to me — posted by “TOTOCHIO” in September 2008.  They feature the wonderful clarinetist Aurelie Tropez, James Evans on clarinet and sax, Keith Stephen and Martin Wheatley on banjo and guitar, and Bruce Rollo on bass.  The venue looks much like one of the rooms in the Village Newcastle — site of the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — but this is just a guess. 

Here’s DINAH:

CRAZY RHYTHM:

and an extended session on I GOT RHYTHM, undisguised:

Thanks for the rhythms, the echoes of Benny and of the QHCF as well!

SEUFFERT-HAGMANN, INC.

Three more hot performances from “South Side Special,” recorded live at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, July 11, 2009, featuring the incendiary combination of Matthias Seuffert (clarinet), Rene Hagmann (trumpet), Paul Munnery (trombone), Martin Seck (piano), Jacob Ullberger (banjo / guitar), Bruce Rollo (bass), and Olivier Clerc (washboard) — concluding their program of music associated with Johnny Dodds and colleagues.

First, PERDIDO STREET BLUES (associated, as Matthias points out, not only with Dodds and Mitchell but also with Louis and Bechet, in a famous Decca session from 1940 whose results belie the stories of musical acrimony).  Catch Maestro Hagmann in charge of the ensemble:

Then, WILD MAN BLUES — not taken at the melodramatic tempo we know from 1927 recordings by Louis and Jelly Roll Morton, but as a swinging bounce — the tempo at which Dodds recorded it in 1938 with Charlie Shavers, Teddy Bunn, John Kirby, and O’Neil Spencer — as “His Chicago Boys” in 1938:

Finally, BALLIN’ THE JACK (or is it BALLIN’ A JACK?) — not the more widely known Chris Smith composition, but one whose title surely has the same erotic implications:

Hotter than that!

Many of the hot jazz recordings of this period can be heard at the Red Hot Jazz website: http://www.redhotjazz.com/jdbbs.html

MATTHIAS SEUFFERT’S MANY SELVES

I was first impressed by the playing of reedman Matthias Seuffert on a few Stomp Off releases several years ago.  One, the BLUE RHYTHMAKERS, paired him with Bent Persson and Keith Nichols; another, PERCOLATIN’ BLUES (by the Chalumeau Serenaders)  found him with Norman Field, with Nick Ward on the drums.  Happily for me, I was asked to write the liner notes for the second volume of a Johnny Dodds tribute organized by “Pam” Pameijer — a session also featuring Jon-Erik Kellso and Jim Snyder.  On all of these discs, I had the opportunity to marvel at Matthias’s fluent technique and gritty intensity — when he’s playing Twenties clarinet, he could show Johnny Dodds a few things; when he’s playing Thirties tenor, he echoes the early, rhapsodic lines of Hawkins.  But, best of all, Matthias is his own man, choosing novel approaches for each song.

Seuffert-Sportiello CDHis originality and down-home ardor are well demonstrated in two very different contexts.  One is a CD, SWINGIN’ DUO BY THE LAGO (Styx CD 1026, available from CDBaby)  that I fear hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, considering its personnel includes Matthias, piano king Rossano Sportiello, and tenor star Harry Allen.  Recorded in 2005 and 2006, it finds Matthias in seven duets with Rossano, three quartet selections with Harry, Rossano, and drummer Anthony Howe, and three “bonus tracks,” featuring Matthias with a piano-less rhythm trio.  On it, Matthias takes wise and refreshing approaches to the sometimes familiar songs: rubbing the sharp corners off Monk’s ASK ME NOW to make a clarinet-piano duet of it that suggests both a cooler, more pensive Goodman; on a Benny Carter line, BLUE FIVE JIVE, he has all the tough swagger of a late-Fifties hard bopper.  Standing next to Harry Allen, Matthias is never combative, but it’s clear that this is a meeting of equals, whether the song is a tender CHELSEA BRIDGE or an assertive LESTER LEAPS IN.  I read about this consistently rewarding disc thanks to John Herr; it’s also music for people who say they dislike jazz — soothing without being soporific, easy to take but never “easy listening.” 

At Whitley Bay, I could greet Matthias face to face (he’s charming) and hear his “South Side Special,” a tribute to the Chicago ambiance that produced some classic Twenties sides with Johnny Dodds, George Mitchell, and Natty Dominique.  Matthias’s front-line partner was the revered Swiss multi-instrumentalist Rene Hagmann, who played magnificiently on trumpet and the reeds.  (I also saw him play air trombone with the Swiss Yerba Buena Creole Rice Jazz Band — more about them in a future posting — and Bent Persson raved about Rene’s real trombone playing to me.)  The band also included Paul Munnery (trombone), Bruce Rollo (bass), Martin Seck on piano (who’s usually a charter member of the Red Hot Reedwarmers), Jacob Ullberger on banjo (a Swedish colleague of Bent’s), and the dazzling young Swiss washboardist Olivier Clerc.  Here they are!

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t recall the title of this first song (I believe it comes from the Dodds Victor sessions — surely one of my readers will know?) but I wasn’t about to leave it off the blog for such a trifling detail:

Matthias announced this one, pianist Lovie Austin’s MOJO BLUES:

For the more literal-minded members of the audience, this selection might have required a leap of faith.  Johnny Dodds Plays Cole Porter?  But YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME existed in 1929, and it pleases me to imagine the Dodds brothers playing this on the gig, where pop songs of the day might well have been requested.  Matthias and the group show that it’s no stretch, aesthetically:

Finally, they concluded the session with BROWN SKIN (or perhaps BROWNSKIN) GAL:

I should point out that all of this ferociously hot music was created around lunchtime: so much for the legends of jazzmen who, like bats, are nocturnal.  The sun was shining outside, although we knew such things were of lesser import.