To a New Yorker like myself, “Burbank, California,” summons up memories of Luther Burbank and his hybridizing of fruits and vegetables, and (on another, less serious level) the jokes Dan Rowan and Dick Martin used to make about the city on LAUGH-IN, so many years ago.
But it’s possible that Burbank may go down in local jazz history as the place where Hal Smith’s FOUR DEVILS AND AN ANGEL had their first gig. (The band was really THREE DEVILS, but all that can be clarified.) JAZZ LIVES readers will remember that one of our roving correspondents, Henry Maldon, went to Joe’s in Burbank on August 15 and came back with a glowing report about the music he had heard.
No surprise there, considering that the band was Hal on drums, Katie Cavera on bass and vocals, Albert Alva on tenor sax, and Chris Dawson on piano. (You can guess who the ANGEL is, although the three other men on the stand aren’t exactly on the Satanic payroll.) The fourth DEVIL came along in the person of guitarist / vocalist Dave Stuckey, who also made these informal videos of the band at work.
On ROSETTA, the mood is definitely Keynote — a Basie feel with hints of Red Allen on THE SOUND OF JAZZ, 1957. You forget immediately that Chris is playing a keyboard, and although Hal isn’t well-captured by the camera microphone, he’s felt even when not heard. And the rest of the band rocks along in a delightfully easeful way:
And here’s a sweetly swinging version of CHERRY, where Chris reminds us of his beautiful sensitivity to the groove, his Wilsonian subtleties:
The glories of Fifty-Second Street, way out West . . .