Tag Archives: California

WHEN BLISS HAPPENS! AT THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE, JIM BUCHMANN, KATIE CAVERA, HAL SMITH, BEAU SAMPLE (Nov. 30, 2014)

SAN DIEGO 2015 flyer 2

One of my friends recently asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving, and I said, “I’m flying to San Diego for a wonderful jazz festival,” and this is why: the San Diego Jazz Fest (all schedules subject to change, but this is a filling menu indeed).

The names you don’t see on the flyer above are Marc Caparone, Kim Cusack, Chris Dawson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Conal Fowkes, Kevin Dorn, Orange Kellin, Tom Bartlett, Duke Heitger, Leon Oakley, Clint Baker, Dawn Lambeth, and many others.  I know that some of you will say, with good reason, “That’s too far away,” and I understand that.  But if you say, “Oh, that’s just another California trad festival,” I hope you are not within swatting range, for it isn’t.  But rather than take this uncharacteristic vehemence as merely the expression of the writer’s personality, look below.

Evidence from November 30, 2014: a small-group session led by Ray Skjelbred, piano and vocal; Hal Smith, drums; Beau Sample, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jim Buchmann, clarinet and saxello, Marc Caparone, trumpet.  I’ve posted other videos from this session, but here are the two that closed it.  One lyrical, one steaming.

The first song, ANYTIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE, which I associate with Lee Wiley — who recorded it a half-dozen times between 1950 and 1972.  Wiley wrote the lyrics; Ned Washington and Victor Young the melody.  I suspect that Ray knew it first from the Mills Brothers recording, but perhaps from the Chick Bullock, Ellington, Hackett, or Nat Cole sides, too.

It is one of those rare love songs that isn’t I WISH I HAD YOU or YOU BROKE MY HEART, but a seriously intent paean to fidelity (rather like I’LL FOLLOW YOU, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, or I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN).  Yet unlike those two songs, it doesn’t stress super-heroic behavior as testimony of diligent indefatigable fidelity.  There are no caveats: “I have to check my calendar.  I can’t be devoted to you this Tuesday.  How about Wednesday?” There aren’t any mighty distances, rivers, or mountains.  The singer simply says, “Ask for me and I’ll be there,” which I find touching. And Ray’s spare, whispered declaration of the lyrics makes it even more so.  I don’t hear his singing as evidence of a limited vocal range; rather, he sounds like someone uttering his deepest heart-truths about devotion in the form of a vow. A Thirties pop song about love — what could be more common — that suddenly seems a sacred offering:

From a sacred offering delivered in hushed tones to another song-of-relationships, the critical / satirical NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW, which — with lyrics — details the small-town girl who has come to the big city and quickly become unrecognizable.  Perhaps she’d come to the South Side of Chicago and started hanging around the Lincoln Gardens?  If so, I’d assess her transformation as an improvement.  Note the easy hot tempo — that’s no oxymoron — and how Marc Caparone sounds a bit like a holy ancestor from Corsicana, Texas.  To quote Ring Lardner, you could look it up.  Or you could simply immerse yourself in the video:

Here’s the festival’s home page and the relevant Facebook page.  I hope you’ll heed the siren call of Good Music and join us there.  Festivals need more than enthusiastic watchers-of-videos to survive.

I hope I will be forgiven for ending on an autobiographical note.  Five years ago, I had some cardiac excitement that was repaired by the best kind of Western medicine: open the patient up and put a little machine in.  It works; I’m fine.  Ask my electrocardiologist.  But when I watch and listen to music at this level — music that I experienced then and have revisited often — I think, “Goodness, I could have died and never seen / heard this,” in a state of astonished gratitude. Not a bad place to be. Rather like the San Diego Jazz Fest.

May your happiness increase!

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BY POPULAR DEMAND: MORE FROM RAY SKJELBRED AND THE CUBS (Napa Valley Dixieland Jazz Society, July 13, 2014)

Every time I post some new videos of music by Ray Skjelbred and the Cubs they get an enthusiastic response . . . so here’s some more, recorded on July 13, 2014, as part of their Northern California tour.  These performances happened thanks to the Napa Valley Dixieland Jazz Society (which met at Grant Hall in Yountville, California) — with dancers!  The performers, the creators, are Ray, piano; Clint Baker, string bass; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums.  And they swing.

We begin with a bit of early Thirties meteorology — asking Aeolus to bring one’s baby back, or BREEZE:

Lessons in remorse, contrition, and forgiveness.  WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

A slow-drag, cozy version of MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS for the happy pair:

That venerable invitation to hedonism, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL:

Even if funds are low, you can still woo with this declaration, I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:

I think it was appropriate to play SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE when the Society members broke out their parasols, but then again this song is one of my favorites, no matter how simple the chord sequence:

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, with vocal by Clint:

SQUEEZE ME, Mister Waller’s first hit:

JAZZ BAND BALL, which is what we were having:

Another bit of Wallerizing, KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW:

And the Whiteman-and-Henderson rouser, HAPPY FEET:

Ordinarily I don’t post so many videos from one performance at the same time, but these sounded so good that I couldn’t help myself.  You understand. (I send the usual apologies to Jeff and Katie for making them invisible, but they certainly are delightfully audible — which is what counts.)

May your happiness increase!

JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (Part Three)

Rainbow Two

The opportunities to hear James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band at the July 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival were delightful — a high point of the year for me.

That band neatly balances thoughtful arrangements and solos, and the result is hot, sweet,  eloquent, satisfying.

They are James Dapogny, piano and arrangements; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone, vocal; Kim Cusack, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Russ Whitman, clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone; Rod McDonald, guitar; Denver native Dean Ross, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

For those who might have missed the earlier posts in this happily extended series, here is the first part and here is the second.

And here are five more delights.

A serenade to a beloved Irish lass (with a tempo change, in honor of the 1944 Commodore recording featuring Miff Mole), PEG O’MY HEART:

The very optimistic paean to the Golden State, CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME:

A 1936 romper, SWING MISTER CHARLIE (recorded by, among others, a youthful Judy Garland backed by the Bob Crosby band):

“Another show tune,” this one from a Dick Powell film — more memorable in Fats Waller’s recording — here warbled by Mr. Cusack, LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

And a mournful revenge song, JUNK MAN (1934, with unheard lyrics by Frank Loesser):

More to come — all equally rewarding.

May your happiness increase!

BACK IN NEW YORK / A CURE FOR SPIRITUAL JET-LAG

I arrived back in New York late last night. With no offense to my fellow urbanites and suburbanites, the word that would describe my return is RELUCTANTLY. Unfortunately, I couldn’t muster up the good cheer of this Hero as imagined in a beautiful drawing by Thomas B. Allen:

louis-back-in-new-york

Even in enhanced stereo (!) Louis looks young and healthy.

But it will take a while for me to look close to that. The Beloved is 3000 miles away. My apartment has serious water damage . . . precious objects became damp, musty — some can’t be repaired. I feel as if spiritual mildew is creeping up on me, which is not something that responds to ordinary curative methods. While I was slumping around the apartment, wondering what else had been ruined and whether I could ever find everything, I knew I needed serious help of a medical kind.

I called on my own medical group and they rushed to my aid. They are Doctors Warren, Dubin, Caparone, Barnhart, Barrett, Shaw, Cavera, Reynolds, and Reynolds:

I apologize for the swooping camerawork but I was trying to create closeups without a tripod, and I think I was so happy that my hand possibly couldn’t remain steady. Somewhere, Fats Waller and Bing Crosby smile approvingly, too.

This always makes me feel better, and I will now play it again while I do other domestic chores.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC FROM THAT QUAINT OLD SOUTHERN CITY: CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the ROSSMOOR JAZZ CLUB (May 28, 2014)

The city of Walnut Creek, California, has a rich history built on Native Americans, Mexican land grants, California walnut trees, cattle ranches, and an officially-classified Mediterranean climate. Today, one finds Charles Schwab and Barnes and Noble where walnut trees (left alone) would grow. I looked for gumbo, Creole ladies with flashing eyes, steamboats, and stopped, exhausted. But jazz — New Orleans and its kin — has a home at the Rossmoor Jazz Club, as you can see and hear here.

On May 28, 2014, Clint Baker brought his New Orleans Jazz Band to that comfortable hall.  They were Clint, trumpet, vocal; Jim Kilppert, trombone, vocal; Bill Carter, clarinet; Robert Young, piano, vocal; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Marty Eggers, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.  Here is the second half of the concert, for your delectation.

TIGER RAG:

THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT:

WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME:

THE OLD RUGGED CROSS (featuring Bill Carter):

I WONDER WHERE MY EASY RIDER’S GONE:

BLACK SNAKE BLUES:

OLE MISS:

PANAMA:

I’ll see you at Rossmoor on July 10, 2014, when Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs perform there.

May your happiness increase!

BING, PRES, BIRD, 1946, 2014

This afternoon, I went on another thrift-shop quest: I search for several rewards, but predictably one is jazz records.  I am most keenly interested in 78s, although vinyl, CDs, home recordings, and cassettes have all surfaced recently.

In Petaluma, California, I drove to one of my favorite places, Alphabet Soup Thrift Store on Western Avenue. Once I had assumed the proper posture (hands and knees, for the 78s were in a box on the floor) I saw this:

APRIL 2014 and before 119

Just finding ten-inch 78 albums is a treat. As an omen, it was hopeful in itself, although Bing albums are common: he sold millions of discs — this collection is copyright 1946.

I love Mr. Crosby, although I gravitate towards his earlier work, when his gaze was more romantic, less severe. For a moment I mused upon the photograph of the man on the cover, clearly warning me not to trespass on his lands. At best, serious; at worst, unfriendly.

With what I can only describe as guarded optimism, I opened the album, knowing from experience that I might not find the records advertised on the cover within.  (In my thrift-shop experience, the records and the album only match when the music is classical, Viennese waltzes, or the songs of Dorothy Shay, the Park Avenue Hillbilly — for reasons I have never understood.)

This is what greeted me, a holy relic:

APRIL 2014 and before 120Thanks to John Hammond and Milt Gabler, that’s a serious thing!

I can’t prove it, but I would bet a good deal that Jimmie Blanton heard and admired that side: where Walter Page comes through beautifully. The other side is the celestial ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS. (Yes, a later pressing, but why fuss?)

I would have been happy if the remaining records had been Allan Jones or perhaps Helen Traubel.  This disc was a treasure.  But I proceeded deeper into the album, to find this disc, especially cosmic (for me) because I had revisited the recordings of this band, including Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson, Taft Jordan, Edgar Battle, on a recent extended car trip:

APRIL 2014 and before 121I wasn’t moaning in the thrift store, because I knew the other patrons might find it odd, and I would have to stand up to properly explain that these discs were the jazz equivalent of first editions by prized writers. But JAZZ LIVES readers will understand my state of bliss.

Two other Commodores (!) appeared — the whole of the 1944 Kansas City Six date with Bill Coleman, Lester Young, Dicky Wells, Joe Bushkin, John Simmons, Jo Jones: JO-JO, THREE LITTLE WORDS, FOUR O’CLOCK DRAG, I GOT RHYTHM.

The final record in the album was cracked — but surely playable:

APRIL 2014 and before 122

The other side is BLUE ‘N’ BOOGIE, Dexter Gordon credited.

My discoveries weren’t at an end.  On the inside cover of this 1946 Crosby album, the owner of the discs had kept a tally. It is hard to read but you’ll note that (s)he loved Lester Young:

APRIL 2014 and before 123

I don’t know the facts, and I shy away from melodrama: jazz-mad Patty or Bill secretly demolishing Mom and Dad’s square Crosby platters to have an album for Pres, Bird, Diz, and Babs. But this list is written with pride of ownership and pride of having a burgeoning Lester Young collection. I don’t think that with an album of only six pockets that one would have to write such a list to recall the contents: this tally says LOOK WHAT BEAUTY I HAVE HERE.

That four of the discs on the list survived speaks to the owner’s care, and to the care of the person who delivered this package to Alphabet Soup. I always feel sad when I uncover such a beloved collection, because I worry that the owner has made the transition, but perhaps Grandma or Grandpa simply has the complete Lester on an iPhone?

Did Bing and the Andrews Sisters give way to Pres, Bird, and Dizzy?  I can’t say in this case. If you wish to write the narrative of seismic artistic shifts, I can’t prevent you from issuing essays on Modernism. Or academic exegeses of High and Low Art.

But this assemblage — take it as if it were one of Joseph Cornell’s boxes — suggests to me that there was a moment in the bumpy history of “popular music” where Eddie Durham, the Andrews Sisters, “cowboy music,” Three Bips and a Bop, Cole Porter, Bird, Diz, Clyde Hart, all coexisted in relative serenity.

Will those days when music roamed wide-open spaces return? Can we dream of creativity without fences established by the artists, their publicists, the critics, and business people?

I don’t know, and the arguments this might provoke have a limited charm.  So if you pardon me, I’m off (across the room) to play my New Old 78s, much loved then and much treasured now.  And those seventy-year old relics sound very good now, I assure you. Walter Page and Willie Bryant come through superbly, as do Lester, Jo, and Dexter. And listening to 78s is very good aerobic exercise for me: I have to get out of my chair every three minutes. Lester is watching over my health, or perhaps it is Bill Coleman or Milt Gabler?

Blessings on you, oh Unnamed Lover of Jazz!

This post is for three young tenor players — in alphabetical order — Jon Doyle, Ben Flood, and Stan Zenkov. They know why!

And for those readers who wonder, “What do those records sound like?” I encourage them to search “Kansas City Six” and “A Viper’s Moan” on YouTube, as well as Bird and Dizzy.  Reassuringly audible.

May your happiness increase!

THE REAL THING: HOT CLUB PACIFIC

Wonderful music awaits!  Explanations follow:

The very swinging performers are Jack Fields, rhythm guitar; Marc Schwartz, guitar; Matt Bohn, bass; Dale Mills, clarinet.

Here’s Ginny Mitchell, sweetly singing AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ with three-quarters of the band above:

Here’s a nod to Django Reinhardt, with SWING 42:

And something a little more unusual — the Latin-flavored FOR SEPHORA (by Stochelo Rosenberg):

This band is called HOT CLUB PACIFIC, and I confess that others have discovered them already — but to me they are the best news of 2012 so far.  Their website (complete with bios, a calendar, and more) is here: http://www.hotclubpacific.com/contact.html

and they play every Monday from 7-9 PM at the Soif Wine Bar, 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, CA.  From what my friend told me, it’s a scene — the joint is jumping in the nicest pacific way:  www.soifwine.com (831)-423-2020.

Now for the lengthy introduction.  I don’t hold with most sweeping declarations about jazz, but a few have never failed me: it should be played “sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mr. Morton.  “If a pianist can’t play like Count Basie, he shouldn’t play,” according to Mr. Braff, and (in parallel), “Anyone who doesn’t play like Lester Young is wrong,” noted Brew Moore.  “Start swinging from the beginning!” opined Jake Hanna.

For me, a certain gentle steady rhythmic pulse is essential.  Swing is, indeed, the thing.  There are other ways to get there, but Basie is and will be the model.  So when my friend Helen called me and said, “I have a really swinging group I want you to hear,” I was excited.  When she told me it was a Hot Club. my enthusiasm diminished slightly — not that Hot Clubs are all bad or “wrong,” but some adopt the more virtuosic extremes of what they believe to be “Gypsy jazz,” and get even more enthusiastic as they go, forgetting that Django and Stephane were swinging melodists who knew the value of space.

But I trust Helen’s taste, and when she advised I begin with JIVE AT FIVE, I was willing.  I was very happy within the first eight bars, and my pleasure only grew.  It is perhaps appropriate that PACIFIC, in this case, doesn’t only refer to the West Coast, to the ocean that embraces California, but to a certain peaceful way of being.  And the gentlemen of the ensemble don’t aspire to be Gypsies; they don’t smoke Gitanes and affect accents: their jazz is frankly American, and it draws so deeply on the best swing of the Thirties — when you sink deep into JIVE AT FIVE, you know you are listening to players who have absolutely internalized the Kansas City Six, the Basie rhythm section —  a sweet kind of perpetual motion that never wears on the listener.

I look forward to hearing the HCP this summer.  And for the moment (or “the nonce,” as someone once wrote) I will go back to JIVE AT FIVE.  Today has been a lovely day; repeated listenings will make it just about perfect.