The stereotype of improvising musicians is that they come out at night; like bats, they avoid bright sunlight. But this crew (Tamar Korn, Evan Arntzen, Dennis Lichtman, Adam Brisbin, Sean Cronin) seems so happy to be out in Nature, with no one calling to the bartender for another Stella. The greenery and friendship is positively inspiring, and they offer us uplifting music. You can savor the first part of this restorative afternoon here. And here’s a second helping of brilliant joyous invention. Thrilling to be there.
I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING, vocal harmonies by Sean and Tamar:
LET’S DO IT (yes, let’s!):
I LOST MY GAL FROM MEMPHIS (with a Spanish tinge):
IT WAS ONLY A SUN SHOWER:
ONE LITTLE KISS, verse and chorus by host Brice Moss (a song I associate with Cliff Edwards and the Eton Boys):
Enjoying these videos again, I am reminded of 2009, when I brought Leroy “Sam” Parkins down to Banjo Jim’s to hear Tamar and the Cangelosi Cards, and he said, “You know, she gets me right in the gizzard. She, Caruso, and Louis,” and that was no stage joke. I think he would say the same thing of not only Tamar, but this band. And somewhere, Sam is happily sitting in with them.
I first encountered Jake Sanders almost a decade ago at Banjo Jim’s, when he was the leader of the Cangelosi Cards, the group that had Tamar Korn as its vocal improvising genius. Later I followed him to other Cards gigs and an especially wonderful rainy evening in a dance studio where he swung like mad, Charlie Christian style, on electric guitar. When he moved to Chicago, I saw and heard him with the Fat Babies in person, on record, and on video, and now he is blazing his own paths. (Most recently for me, in a trio with Dennis Lichtman and Jared Engel which appeared at The Django in New York City — lovely eloquent music.)
His new CD is what we used to call a doozy, precisely because it follows no narrow formula. Here’s a sample of the music Jake loves and plays with great feeling — captured at the February 2018 CD release party in Mexico City:
And hereyou can buy an actual disc or download the music (each for the low price of $10 USD) or hear four of the thirteen tracks, in case you need convincing.
and here is the prose (not by me) that accompanies the music:
Estrellas de Radio features the sounds of acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, violin, piano, and upright bass. The songs and styles range across a broad spectrum of traditions, drawing from or expanding upon the roots of American jazz. The album features beautiful waltzes, rags, blues, and band arrangements of four guitar solos originally published in the 30’s which have never been previously recorded. Three of these rare and unique compositions are credited to guitar legend Nick Lucas.
Recorded over a two year period by Alex Hall at Reliable Records in Chicago, the album features a host of musicians from New York, Chicago and Detroit; these include: Jared Engel, Dalton Ridenhour, Dennis Lichtman, Aaron Jonah Lewis, Beau Sample, Paul Asaro, and Patrick Donley.
Three tracks feature the exceptional sounds of Fraulini Guitars hand-crafted by the esteemed luthier Todd Cambio. (Jake Sanders plays an Annunziata on Serate Primaverili, Speranze Perdute, and Flappers Trot; Patrick Donley plays an Angie on Speranze Perdute).
While the early Italian pioneers of the jazz guitar Nick Lucas and Eddie Lang made their mark on 20th century music, an earlier generation of Italian string virtuoso were also recording in America. Masters such as Giovanni Gioviale and Giovanni Vicari brought old world sounds to the new world. L’Ultimo and Serate Primaverili are adaptations of Giovale’s brilliant compositions originally conceived for mandolin. Speranze Perdute was inspired by a recording by Giovanni Vicari, as was the mazurka Mia Carina, which he recorded with The Continental Trio.
While Nick Lucas is famous amongst jazz aficionados both as a vocalist and for his early recorded guitar solos (Picking the Guitar and Teasing the Frets), he is also credited with composing numerous guitar solos which were never recorded, but appeared in folios and early flat-picking method books. Bootlegger’s Blues, Flappers Trot, and Gold Diggers are all examples of Lucas guitar solos which exist as sheet music, but have not been recorded until now.
The exquisite waltz, Margaret, that appears as a piece in The Nick Lucas Guitar Method Vol. 1, however, was composed by J. Nicomede. Sanders’ unique conception and arrangements of these songs are drawn from his nearly 20 years of playing roots music. (Flappers Trot, guitar and piano) (Bootlegger’s Blues, Gold Diggers, Margaret, guitar, violin, piano, bass).
Let Me Call You Sweetheart and Wang Wang Blues are classically-styled guitar and mandolin duets arranged in studio. Charleston Rag, known as a piano solo, is heard here uniquely arranged for piano, guitar, and upright bass. The Memphis Shakedown, made famous by the Memphis Jug band, is a common tune for old-time and jug bands performing today. However on Estrellas de Radio the tune becomes something altogether different, achieving new sounds in old music. The Sunset Blues is the album’s one original composition. Like any blues it borrows from the past, however its spare style, unusual form, and crafted melody give it a sound all its own.
ABOUT JAKE SANDERS:
Jake Sanders is a guitarist, bandleader, and arranger, whose musical career began in New York City at the end of the last century. After years as a street performer, playing jazz and American traditional music, Sanders formed the popular roots band, The Cangelosi Cards. They performed nightly in the back rooms and bars of the East Village, but soon traveled well beyond Manhattan, playing shows from Shanghai to Stockholm. After years with the Cards, Jake joined The Fat Babies, an acclaimed hot jazz band which continues to perform weekly at Chicago’s world famous Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. His last album with the group, Solid Gassuh (Delmark Records), made DownBeat Magazine’s “Best of 2017” list – a rare feat for a traditional jazz band in modern times.
A long time musical collaborator with vocalist and world-renowned Lindy hop champion, Naomi Uyama, Jake both plays guitar and arranges for her swing outfit, Naomi & Her Handsome Devils. Sanders has recorded with the great stride and ragtime piano player Paul Asaro, and has been featured on record and stage with the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet.
Jake Sanders has performed at The Chicago Jazz Festival, The Detroit Jazz Festival and The Brooklyn Folk Festival as well as countless clubs, dance halls and theaters throughout North America. Jake’s guitar playing has brought him across Europe and Asia and he is a regular performer in-residence at Cracovia 32, home of the emerging swing scene in Mexico City. As a solo performer or with the Handsome Devils, The Dotted Halves trio or with the quintet, The Lovestruck Balladeers, Jake Sanders is a consummate traveling musician who can be heard far and wide.
A few words from me, on behalf of JAZZ LIVES. I trust Jake’s taste completely, so even though some of the compositions on this disc are not Hot Music in the established sense, I fell in love with the sounds here at first playing. The only reason this post is written at the end of May rather than a few months earlier is because I wanted actual discs to play in the car. I’ve amazed a number of unsuspecting passengers with ESTRELLAS DE RADIO, and one even said, “Michael, I didn’t know you liked beautiful music like this!” I do, and you will.
When I first met Dennis in 2009 at the now-quiet Banjo Jim’s in New York City, we were both younger, and he was restricting himself to clarinet, mandolin, and fiddle, as an integral member of the Cangelosi Cards.
Now see what he’s done! This video seriously goes where no musician has gone before, and it outdoes Sidney Bechet’s One-Man Band in several ways. In it, Dennis composes a paean to his musical development, sings, cavorts, and plays violin, clarinet, guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo (and he avoids the difficult non-rhyme), C-melody saxophone, and a few surprises:
It is terribly unsubtle of me to write this, but the festival promoter or club booker or what have you who can see this video and not think, “I ought to hire this fellow. Think of all the talent I can snag for one salary!” is someone I can’t imagine. Find Dennis here or here to make those connections.
Keep on keepin’ on, Dennis. You’re no fool. Thank you for the joy and the sounds.
Is surrender capitulating to an enemy, saying “I give up. You are stronger.” or is it an enlightened act, a realization that there are powers we can’t conquer and that the idea of conquering anything is futile?
I’ve always found I SURRENDER, DEAR — so powerfully connected to Bing Crosby — both touching and mysterious. As Gordon Clifford’s lyrics tell us, the singer is saying, in effect, “Take me back. Here is my heart. I give up all pretense of being distant. I need you,” which is deeply moving, a surrender of all ego-barriers and pretense. But I’ve never been able to figure out whether “Here, take my heart,” is greeted with “I’d love to welcome you back,” or “No thanks, I’m full.” Other songs hold out the possibility of reconciliation (consider IN A LITTLE SECOND-HAND STORE or WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE) but this one ends unresolved. It’s also one of those songs that lends itself to a variety of interpretations: both Bing and Louis in the same year, then a proliferation of tenor saxophonists, and pianists from Monk to Garner to Teddy. And (before the music starts) probably thanks to Roy Eldridge, there’s also an honored tradition of slipping into double-time.
Here, however, are ten versions that move me.
January 1931: Bing Crosby with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra. Note the orchestral flourishes:
Later that same year: Victor Young and the Brunswick Concert Orchestra, featuring Frank Munn, not enough of the Boswell Sisters (acting as their own concert orchestra) and a few seconds of Tommy Dorsey. I think this was an effort to show that Paul Whiteman didn’t have a monopoly on musical extravagance, and I’ve never seen a label credit “Paraphrased by . . . “. I also note the vocal bridge turns to 3/4, and Munn sings “are doing” rather than “were doing,” but we wait patiently for the Sisters to appear, and they do:
Imagine anyone better than Ben Webster? Here, in 1944, with our hero Hot Lips Page:
Forward several decades: Joe Venuti, Zoot Sims, John Bunch, Milt Hinton, Bobby Rosengarden 1975:
1978 — a duet of Earl Hines and Harry Edison:
Raymond Burke, Butch Thompson, Cie Frazier in New Orleans, 1979:
and something I was privileged to witness and record, flapping fan blades and all, from February 2010 (Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Marcus Milius, Debbie Kennedy):
Ray Skjelbred, Marc Caparone, Jim Buchmann, Katie Cavera, Beau Sample, Hal Smith, at the San Diego Jazz Fest in November 2014:
Nobody follows Louis. 1931:
and the majestic version from 1956:
A little tale of the powers of Surrender. In years past, I would drive into Manhattan, my car full of perishables, and search for a parking spot. Of course there were none. I could feel the gelato melting; I could feel my blood pressure rising contrapuntally. Frustrated beyond belief, I would roll down my window and ask the Parking Goddess for her help. “I do not ask for your assistance that often, and I admit that I cannot do this on my own. I am powerless without your help. Will you be merciful to me?” And I would then circle the block again and a spot would have opened up. My theory is that such supplication works only if one is willing to surrender the ego, the facade of one’s own power. Of course it has also been known to work for other goals, but that is an essay beyond the scope of JAZZ LIVES.
For now, surrender whole-heartedly and see what happens.
I first met Naomi Uyama in a downtown New York music club five years ago. Soon, we adjourned to the sidewalk.
It’s less melodramatic or noir than it appears. The club was Banjo Jim’s — ‘way down yonder on Avenue C — where a variety of jazz-folk-dance groups appeared in 2009. The most famous was the Cangelosi Cards, in their original manifestation, featuring among others Tamar Korn, Jake Sanders, Marcus Milius, Cassidy Holden, Gordon Webster, Kevin Dorn. Tamar, who has always admired the Boswell Sisters, got together with singers Naomi and Mimi Terris to perform some Boswell numbers as “The Three Diamonds.” On one cold night, the three singers joined forces on the sidewalk to serenade myself, Jim and Grace Balantic, and unaware passers-by with a Boswell hot chorus of EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY. Tamar has recorded on her own, as has Mimi, but I and others have been waiting for Naomi to record, to share her sweet swing with the world. And the disc is delightful.
The first thing one notices about the disc is its authentic swing feel courtesy of players who have a deep affection for a late-Basie rhythmic surge and melodic ingenuity: Jake Sanders, guitar; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Jared Engel, string bass; Jeremy Noller, drums, and a two-person frontline of Adrian Cunningham, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Matt Musselman, trombone. The band is neither over-rehearsed or overly casual; they provoke regular movements of the listener’s head, torso, and limbs. (I can attest to this.) They aren’t busily copying the sound of classic recordings; they are swinging out in fine style. I heard echoes of Illinois Jacquet and Al Grey, of a Buddy Tate band uptown or a Forties Jay McShann small group, of Tiny Grimes and Sir Charles Thompson — those players who swung as reliably as breathing. The band never gets in Naomi’s way, and they make happy music for dancers, riffing as if to the manner born.
But this might seem to ignore Naomi, which would be unthinkable. She came to jazz through lindy hop, which means her rhythm has a cheerful bounce to it, even on slower numbers. But she knows well that making music is more than beating a solid 4/4 so that the dancers know where one is. Naomi is an effective melodist, not tied to the paper but eminently respectful of the melodies we know. Her improvisations tend to be subtle, but when she breaks loose (trading scat phrases with the horns on MARIE) she never puts a foot wrong. (MARIE, incidentally, is the fastest track on the disc — 223 beats per minute — and it never seems rushed. I approve that Naomi and her Handsome Devils understand the beautiful shadings possible within medium-tempo rocking music.)
Naomi’s voice is a pleasure in itself — no rough edges, with a wide palette of timbres, but perfectly focused and with an effective phrase-ending vibrato. She doesn’t sound like someone who has spent her life memorizing Ella, Billie, or a dozen others; she sounds, rather, like someone who has fallen in love with the repertoire and decided to sing it, as if she were a bird bursting into song. In swingtime, of course. On Lil Johnson’s seductive encouragement, TAKE IT EASY, GREASY, she does her own version of a Mae West meow, but she doesn’t go in for effects and tricks. Her phrases fall in the right places, and she sounds natural — not always the case among musicians offering milkless milk and silkless silk in the name of Swing.
And I had a small epiphany while listening to this CD. A front-line of trombone and reed (mostly tenor) is hardly unusual, and it became even less so from the middle Forties onwards, but it makes complete aesthetic sense here, because the spare instrumentation (two horns, powerful yet light rhythm section) gives Naomi the room she needs to be the graceful and memorable trumpet player of this little band. Think, perhaps, of Buck Clayton: sweet, inventive, bluesy, creating wonderful phrases on the simplest material, and the place Naomi has made for herself in the band seems clear and inevitable.
The songs also suggest a wider knowledge of the Swing repertoire than is usual: Basie is represented not with a Joe Williams blues, but with the 1938 GLORIANNA, and the Dorsey MARIE is an evocation rather than a small-band copy. There are blues — I KNOW HOW TO DO IT and the aforementioned TAKE IT EASY, GREASY — as well as classic pop standards that feel fresh: I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, ONE HOUR, LOVER, COME BACK TO ME, AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY, GOODY GOODY, IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T MY BABY, WHAM, and THIS CAN’T BE LOVE.
The disc offers nothing but good music, never ironic or post-modern, neither copying nor satirizing, just beautifully crafted melodic Swing. Welcome, Naomi — with your Handsome Devils alongside. On with the dance!
Now, some bits of information. You can find Naomi on Facebook here; the band has its own page here. To buy the disc (or a download), visit here, where you also can hear samples of the songs. To hear complete songs, visit here. Naomi and a version of her Devils can be found on YouTube, and hereis her channel. Enough data for anyone: listen to the music and you’ll be convinced.
I am delighted to introduce the fine singer Hetty Kate. To those who already know her, let this be a repeat embrace and celebration. Hetty does all the right things, without straining or undue drama. Her voice is clear and penetrating; her diction beautiful without being “learned” (she has a conversational ease); she swings; she subtly but affectingly improvises; she understand the lyrics; she embellishes and ornaments but never obliterates the melody. She respects the great singers of the past and present but never climbs in to the tomb and closes the door.
I delight in the two new CDs she has presented to us, in her sweet light-hearted approach. When she decides to snap out a lyric, the results are explosively good (hear her FROST ON THE MOON). She sounds as if she is merely singing the song, but we know that such casualness is true art.
Hetty is international in the best way: based in Melbourne, Australia, she recorded one CD on a New York City trip — enjoying the company of fine local musicians including Gordon Webster, piano; Dan Levinson, reeds; Mike Davis, trumpet, Cassidy Holden, guitar (now of New Orleans, but I knew him first as a string bassist with the Cangelosi Cards), Kevin Congleton, drums; Rob Adkins, string bass; Joseph Wiggan, tap dancing (wonderfully on Shoo Fly Pie); Adrien Chevalier, violin (Besame Mucho); Adam Brisbin, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; and a quartet of additional horns on the final track to make a rocking big band, Nadje Noordhuis, Jay Rattman, Michael Webster, Mike Fahie. The truly internationaltrombonist Shannon Barnett (Australia / New York / Germany) also pays a call. The result is irresistible, one of those CDs I wanted to play again right away as soon as it ended.
The CD is called GORDON WEBSTER MEETS HETTY KATE, and the equality of the title is mirrored in the music, with a nice balance between singer and band. The soloists tell us stories; Gordon’s wonderfully off-center piano is always a deep pleasure, and the sound — thanks to Michael Perez-Cisneros — is rich, exquisite.
Hetty told me, “I really let my imagination go a little with the song list, and love digging out tunes that aren’t played too much,” thus, Button Up Your Overcoat / Blitzkrieg Baby / Peek-a-boo / Shoo Fly Pie & Apple Pan Dowdy / How D’ya Like To Love Me? / Eight, Nine & Ten / There’s Frost On The Moon / Busy Line / Sweet Lover No More / I Wanna Be Around / Hard Hearted Hannah / Bésame Mucho / I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City.
Two songs were unfamiliar charmers, so I asked her about their origins. Here’s what Hetty wrote:
I first heard Peek-A-Boo on a .. wait for it.. Dove advertisement (probably on You Tube), where they’d used the song as the soundtrack to a story about how women are always so self conscious about their looks, and don’t like being photographed – but when they are children they have no shame about this and just dance and ham for the camera.. a little message about trying to be confident and see the beauty in us all! So the song was a cute one.. I fell immediately in love with it and with some research found the vocalist, Rose Murphy, the “chee chee girl” and also added her other famous song ‘Busy Line’ to the album. She was quite an extraordinary performer and pianist, and now I’m a big fan.
There are so many wonderful singers who don’t get much of a ‘look in’ because of Ella / Billie / Peggy / Anita and so forth – I feel that not only am I getting a benefit from discovering these other singers, but their memory can be kept alive a little too! Audrey Morris sang ‘How D’Ya Like To Love Me’ and she was an extraordinary talent as well (Bob Hope also famously sang that song) Sweet Lover and I Wanna Be Around were given to me on a mix tape by a good friend with a Blossom Dearie obsession and her approach to two rather evil songs was of course cute as a button – at the time I was going through some romantic challenges of my own, and I love to sing about the darker side of love as well as its light and sparkling hopefulness!
There’s Frost On The Moon was also given to me — Chick Webb’s band with Ella Fitzgerald (very young) and I believe Louis Jordan – and again, the lyrics were an immediate drawcard as well as the melody. The band in the studio had a great time with this one! I think it’s our favourite!
A lot of my family are writers, and as well as being drawn to the melody of a tune, I am always entranced by a clever turn of phrase, and with this album being able to match clever songs with some great dance tempos and arrangements by Gordon I was in heaven!!
Had Hetty recorded only this CD, I would be heralding her as a reassuringly professional new talent. But there’s more. DIM ALL THE LIGHTS is an entrancing collection of “vintage love songs” associated with Peggy Lee, June Christy, and Julie London: The Thrill Is Gone / In the Still of the Night / Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered / Answer Me, My Love / Why Don’t You Do Right? / Cry Me A River / Something Cool / Wives and Lovers / I Get Along Without You Very Well. Hetty is accompanied by a spare but beautiful quartet of Sam Keevers, piano; James Sherlock, guitar; Ben Robertson, string bass; Danny Farugia, drums.
The temptation for a singer, choosing these songs so strongly associated with these majestic artists, would be either to copy or to go in the other direction — vary the tempo, add odd rhythmic backgrounds, and the like. Hetty does neither: I am sure that the voices of the Great Foremothers are echoing in her head, but she treats each song as its own new script, and takes her time, inventing a new, lifelike way to sing it. No maudlin swooning, no pounding drums, no melodramatic rubato. Just effective singing: I’d put her version of BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, and BEWILDERED up against anyone’s. Understated, apparently cool, but with real passion coming through.
I believe Hetty has been singing professionally only since 2006, but she is a real treasure. No fakery — no little-girl cute, no look-at-me-I’m-so-hip / punk / sexy here at all. Just good music, intelligently interpreted and always swinging. And don’t let the gorgeous cover shot prejudice you against the elegant Ms. Kate: her CDs are about her voice, not her hair or her beautiful dress.
Here is Hetty’s Facebook page, and hereis the website for the CD with Gordon. Both discs are on iTunes. Visit hereand enjoy one-minute sound bites; visit the ABC site to purchase DIM ALL THE LIGHTS, and here to purchase the CD with Gordon — which is also available at CDBaby. (I know — life is complicated, especially for those of us used to dropping in at our local record stores and coming home with some new or old treasure. But Hetty’s CDs are worth the digging.)
It’s a critical commonplace to welcome the new artist at the start of “a brilliant career” to come. In Hetty Kate’s case, she is already singing brilliantly — a young artist with a mature, engaging sensibility.
I first encountered Mimi Terris late in 2008, a sweetly humble young singer who joined Tamar Korn and the Cangelosi Cards at the Lower East Side music spot Banjo Jim’s. With Naomi Uyama, the three songbirds stood out on the sidewalk on a cold night and serenaded me, Jim and Grace Balantic with an a cappella Boswell Sisters chorus. It might have been SHOUT, SISTER, SHOUT, and we were thrilled. Tamar, Mimi, and Naomi are immortalized on a few videos on YouTube, and the EP CD of “The Three Diamonds”.
Now, Mimi has released her debut CD: it is just wonderful throughout. It’s not simply the winning purity of her voice; it’s the depth of her emotions and the wide range of her musical affections — from gutty Bessie Smith to floating sweet lyricisms. She can be as light as Beverly Kenney or Blossom Dearie, but she isn’t limited by any one approach. Mimi is classically trained, but she doesn’t sound like Helen Traubel “trying to swing.” Swing comes naturally to her, but so does beautiful enunciation, convincing phrasing, a deep love of both the original melody and the lyrics.
Here she is, with friends, deep in the purple dusk of twilight time:
The CD, THEY SAY ITS SPRING, is just as delicious. On it, Mimi is joined by pianist Gordon Webster and bassist Cassidy Holden with visits from guitarist Jacob Fischer and trumpeter Peter Marrott on THEY SAY IT’S SPRING / WEST END BLUES / EN SADAN NATT SOM DENNA (an instantly memorable Swedish pop song from the Thirties) / IT WON’T BE YOU / LILAC WINE / I GOT IT BAD / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / LOVER, COME BACK TO ME / STAR DUST / ALICE.
Listening to it, a dozen times, I thought of Eddie Condon’s praise of Lee Wiley: “She just sings the melody. No tricks.” But Mimi’s delicate, reverberating art — deeply simple — is even better than the absence of melodrama. Although young, she sounds like a mature artist, offering her love of the songs to us.
Mimi’s Facebook page is here; her website is here; to hear music samples or download the CD, visit here.
I had never heard about Andrew J. Nemr before February 2010. This unassumingly dressed young man was part of the audience at a Cangelosi Cards concert at the Shambhala Meditation Center — and someone invited him to come forward and join the band. He had no instrument but put a wooden board, painted flat black, on the floor . . . and proceeded to dazzle us:
Here’s Andrew in duet with Gordon Au in 2011:
Andrew and friends — make that Friends — will be presenting three concerts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, September 20, 21, and 22, at Aaron Davis Hall (the City College of New York). The concerts begin at 7 PM; the doors open at 6:30. Admission is $15 per person; students with ID get in for $10. You may purchase tickets here. And here’s the event’s Facebook page.
One of the highlights of the concert programs will be Andrew’s recreation of Bill Robinson’s famous Stair Dance — but there will be marvels and feats of dance that no one has yet imagined.
Guitarist and banjoist Jake Sanders must have gotten tired of being told that his first name — in Twenties slang — is a synonym for “great,” as in “Everything’s Jake!” meaning things couldn’t be better . . . but the name fits.
Youthful Mr. Sanders creates lovely melodies; he knows how to swing; his musical vocabulary is broad and rich without ever being artificially enhanced.
JAZZ LIVES viewers have seen him here as one of the guiding lights of the Cangelosi Cards. Now, Jake is doing some New York City gigs on his own, and will be dividing his time between Wisconsin and New York — so I encourage you to get out and hear him!
But here’s something to pay attention to — an upcoming gig at the cozy Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on May 27, 2011. From 9 to 10, Jake will play an opening set in a duo with guitarist Marko Gazic, presenting acoustic traditional guitar music from Mexico and Europe. Then, Jake’s Quintet will play two sets — he’ll be joined by my heroes Gordon Au (trumpet), Will Anderson (reeds), Rob Adkins (bass), and Giampaolo Biagi (drums). Andrew Nemr will also tap dance for a few songs in each set.
P. S. I won’t be there — because I’ll be in Sacramento at the Jubilee. Does anyone want to audition for the position of JAZZ LIVES videographic understudy?
In his book ANSWERED PRAYERS, Truman Capote planned to include a story, “And Audrey Wilder Sang,” referring to the lovely wife of director Billy Wilder. If she sang, you knew it had been a memorable party.
Capote never met Tamar Korn, that brave improviser, but that’s his great loss.
When she’s an unexpected guest, rare music results — as it did at the end of the night last Sunday, November 14, 2010, at The Ear Inn.
I’ve already delighted in the performances of Pete Martinez, Dan Block, Matt Munisteri, Jon Burr, and John Bucher. (But why not another few lines in praise of Dan’s deep repertoire of riffs and timbres, of Pete’s passionate intensity, Matt’s rocking work — singing along with his solo on the second title — and Jon’s woody propulsion. And how they fit together here!)
Tamar brought her own special kind of drama (without artifice), deep emotion, and vocal beauty to two songs. And the audience at The Ear paid her the compliment of listening closely. Perhaps they, too, were swept away by the vision of sweet pastoral she offered on UP A LAZY RIVER:
Then Tamar suggested THE SONG IS ENDED — thinking no doubt of her heroes the Mills Brothers and Louis Armstrong who had recorded this Irving Berlin number at a trotting tempo nearly seventy-five years ago. Paradoxically, when Tamar told us the song was ended, it only made us want to hear her sing more:
Thank you, Tamar. Thank you, gentlemen — for moments like this, so rare in anyone’s listening experience, perhaps in anyone’s life.
The Cangelosi Cards provoke enthusiastic affirmations wherever they go.
And recently they’ve gone as far as I can imagine — to the House of Blues and Jazz in Shanghai, China for a three-month residency. They’re returning for gigs between October 22 and November 4, including a stint at the Nanjing Jazz Festival, October 22nd-28th. The group will also make a four-city tour including Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing.
I am cheered by their widening circle of friends. But for those of us who can’t drop everything and follow the Cards to China, there’s new musical evidence to savor.
When I first heard the Cards at Banjo Jim’s some years ago, I was moved by their swinging momentum and deep feeling — unaffected sentiment with a rocking pulse. The singular instrumental voices always sounded like a conversation — intimate yet fervent — that I was privileged to eavesdrop on. When Tamar Korn began to sing, the experience became otherworldly, music coming from what Yeats called “the deep heart’s core.”
Tamar and the band loved the music of the Boswell Sisters — not only the beautiful repertoire and hot solos but the vocal harmonies and sophisticated arrangements. I saw Tamar and her sweetly singing friends Naomi Uyama and Mimi Terris create their own variations on the Boswell repertoire. I remember their acapella rendition of MOONGLOW performed on the sidewalk outside Banjo Jim’s brought me to tears.
Now that experience has taken tangible shape, for Tamar, Mimi, and Naomi, as “The Three Diamonds,” have recorded a mini-CD of three selections backed by the Cards (Gordon Webster, Dennis Lichtman, Jake Sanders, Matt Musselman, Cassidy Holden, and Marcus Milius).
It’s extraordinary music — connected by a celestial theme: STARDUST, MOONGLOW, and the lesser-known WHEN MY BLUE MOON TURNS TO GOLD AGAIN. The EP will be available at the Cards’ shows and can be purchased online at www.losmusicosviajeros.net for $3 plus shipping.
And since the Cards are back in New York City for a moment, they can be experienced at Harefield Road, where, to quote Jake, they’re “inviting a bunch of folks out this Sunday, some good friends-fine players from other groups.” Harefield Road is on Metropolitan between Graham and Humboldt in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the third stop on the L. The Cards will play from 5 to 9.
And they will also be presented in concert by the New Jersey Jazz Society — at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, on October 11. The concert begins at 8 PM: tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown. The hall is near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 Expressway. It seats 300 and there’s ample on-site parking and wheelchair access. Weeknight concerts are one long set (8 to 9:30 PM). Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at (973) 971-3706. The box office can also provide information and directions, or email Jazzevents@aol.com.
The performance the Cangelosi Cards put on, casually but with great skill, at the Shambhala Meditation Center, stands out as one of the great sustained musical evenings of my life.
The Cards are delighting audiences in Shanghai, China, as I write this — and here, for those of us who miss them badly (and for those who have not yet experienced them) I present the four songs remaining from that evening. I’ve been hoarding these videos, but it’s time to open the treasure chest one last time. The Cards here are Tamar Korn, Jake Sanders, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Marcus Milius, and Debbie Kennedy:
They began the evening with the song I associate with the Boswell Sisters (and, later, with Marty Grosz) — another song that celebrates love and caffeine (or tea), a good combination — WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:
Then, that sweet celebration of the love that one has found at last — EXACTLY LIKE YOU. I read in Mezz Mezzrow’s brightly colored autobiography that the Harlem hep cats who knew the inside story called this tune ‘ZACKLY, which stuck in my mind:
Tamar sat one out — Jelly Roll Morton’s mournful, mysterious WININ’ BOY BLUES (or WINDING BALL BLUES, you pick):
And every jazz performance needs a Fats Waller song to be complete, so here’s the swing masterpiece HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, which we have to remember is more than just a well-known set of chord changes with an intriguing bridge: let’s hear it for Andy Razaf’s sly lyrics:
Jake assured me that the Cards will be coming back to us!
Here are four more performances from the Cangelosi Cards’ Feb. 27, 2010 evening at the Shambhala Meditation Center in New York.
Everyone knows or should know by now who the Cards are, but if you’ve come late to this particular version of swing enlightenment, they are Tamar Korn, vocals; Jake Sanders, banjo; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and electric mandolin; Marcus Milius, harmonica; Gordon Au, trumpet; Debbie Kennedy, string bass. Thanks to Paul Wegener for booking the Cards at Shambhala for what I hope is a long series of memorable evenings.
I first saw the Cards perform amidst dancers, who reflected the music in their ecstatic, sometimes homegrown spins and dips. At the Shambhala, however, they turned the stage over to Andrew Nemr — someone I hadn’t known — a divinely inspired tap dancer who brought his own tiny wooden stage. Here’s Andrew working out on a Charles Mingus blues, MY JELLY ROLL SOUL:
And what could be more traditional than the Cards jamming on I GOT RHYTHM around Andrew:
Then, Tamar resumed her place onstage to sing YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, complete with two sets of lyrics to the verse. There’s a subtext here: Tamar said, with a hint of wicked glee in her eye, that Jake always gets a little worried when she calls this song, wondering if Tamar means him in particular. Watch Tamar’s face when she gets to the title of the song: if that isn’t great comic acting, I don’t know:
Finally, a wistful but swinging reading of Walter Donaldson’s paean to domestic bliss and home ownership — MY BLUE HEAVEN. I know this was one of the songs the Cards performed when I first saw them, and I delight in their reading, including the verse:
I’ve been parcelling out these delicious performances by the Cangelosi Cards, being reluctant to come to the end of the music I recorded. And my reluctance is especially strong because I’ve learned that the Cards now have an extended gig (two months?) in Shanghai. If they can’t fix US-Sino relations, who could?
So here are two more from the video cookie jar — I don’t want my viewers to spoil their appetites!
The first is a song I find so touching — and always have, even when the lyrics were more optimistic than I could afford to be at the time: WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS. Thanks to Harry Barris and his one-time colleague, Mister Crosby:
The other side of hope might not be love-jealousy, but here’s an old Carter Family blues — JEALOUS HEARTED ME — which has an extra bar at the end of each chorus, ready to trip up any musicians on auto-pilot. Which the Cards never are:
Thank you, Tamar, Jake, Dennis, Gordon, Marcus, and Debbie!
And if all of this is new to some viewers, they need only go back a few blogposts to read and experience the whole story — the best homework assignment any academic could impose. More to come!
It was an immense thrill to hear and see the Cangelosi Cards on Saturday, February 27, 2010, at the Shambhala Meditation Center in New York City on 22nd Street. That’s not an idle statement.
Before this, I had seen the Cards primarily at Banjo Jim’s, where the atmosphere was exuberant and loud. And for all their own exuberance, they are truly a subtle band, so I had to strain to hear them. But the Shambhala provided a large, quiet wood-floored space. True, an overhead fan clicks at the beginning of this performance, but that sound is swallowed up by the rhythm section. And (perhaps a small point?) the dancers were in back of me and the room was well-lit, so I was able to capture the Cards as they should be captured. Those dancers, by the way, included Eve Polich of “Avalon” and Heidi Rosenau and Joe McGlynn. The whole delightful event was the idea of Paul Wegener, a fan of the Cards from way back, who had the inspired idea of bringing them to this wonderfully open, serene, receptive space.
This edition of the Cards included the regular brilliant musicians: Jake Sanders on banjo, Marcus Milius on harmonica, Dennis Lichtman on clarinet and mandolin, Tamar Korn on vocals. And there were Debbie Kennedy on bass and Gordon Au on trumpet.
Here is the third performance of the night (after two jaunty warm-up songs): I SURRENDER, DEAR.
It’s a masterpiece of sorrowing intensity, supported throughout by the bring bring bring of Jake’s banjo and the melodic pulse of Debbie’s bass. Marcus and Dennis seem transported; Gordon takes his time, creating one sad, thoughtful phrase after another.
And Tamar. I told her during the set break that I thought she was growing as a dramatic actress, and her delicate face registers every nuance of the song. Not only in the first chorus, where she outlines the text, but in her return — becoming a muted trumpet for sixteen bars and then returning to the lyrics. She told me that she sings this song as an expression of penitence, which is undeniable, but I also hear barely controlled rage in the way she bites off the words “a spice to the wooing.”
I dedicate this lovely, deep exploration of music and lyrics to Bing Crosby, to Harry Barris, to Louis Armstrong, to the Mills Brothers, and to Sam Parkins, who told Tamar that her singing “got him right in the gizzard.” Truer words were never spoken, and they apply equally to the Cards as a whole.
Did I say it was a thrill to hear the Cards? No, an honor. A privilege.
The title refers to a pretty Fats Waller song from 1932 — the version I know is by Marty Grosz, although Hal Smith and Co. might have recorded it. But the phrase has larger implications.
I don’t ordinarily use the blog as an extra-musical diary, but here are sixteen bars of news.
My faithful readers will have noticed a cessation of blog-activity; I wrote my most recent blogpost a week ago and skidded to a halt. What could have made me give up one of my great pleasures?
How about a hospital visit that ended with me the happy owner-wearer of a defibrillator?
I could think of other gadgets that initially would have given me more pleasure but this one will keep me from fainting, falling down, and whacking my face into the sidewalk. (The sidewalk won that contest.)
I expect to be back to blogging very soon — I have video footage from a wondrous Cangelosi Cards concert as well as Hot glories from Orange Kellin’s most recent visit to The Ear Inn. So stay tuned!
And aside from the predictably drab food, I had a gratifying stay: the doctors at North Shore Hospital in Great Neck, New York, found the problem and fixed it. Everyone here deserves special prizes and treats for humor, sweetness, and compassion. Heartfelt thanks to Drs. Meir Friedman and Jeffrey N. Berger.
AND! I almost forgot . . . during the four-hour procedure that ended with the implanting of the defibrillator, the sweetly gracious nurses — Pat, Wendy, and Edna –turned the ambient music (Pandora) to Ben Webster playing YOU’RE MINE, YOU, and Coleman Hawkins doing UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE. What more could a temporarily-incapacitated jazz blogger want than to have Doctors Webster and Hawkins in attendance? No wonder I am happily recovered . . .
The Cangelosi Cards are in town. The Cards will be playing and singing at a new venue — two Saturday 8 PM concert appearances (dates above), with free dance lessons at 7 PM. A $10 admission will do it, and there will be “wine and soft drinks by donation.” The concert announcement reads: “The Cangelosi Cards bring their acoustic swing music to the Shambhala Center for a lively evening of music and dance. The large hall with wooden floors and good acoustics gives room to dance, not just in the aisles, while the separate lounge gives socializing its full due.” Who could argue with any of that?
Who knew that the ethereally gutty Ms. Korn, an irreplaceable singer, was also a nifty photographer? Well, here’s a sample — taken in Lithuania when the Cangelosi Cards did their summer 2009 tour:
I found this photograph (and others) on the newly enlarged site devoted to the Cards and to Mona’s Hot Four, to their music (compact disc issues for sale!), their calendar, news, contact information, and more. Thanks to Marcus Milius for telling me about this. I gather that the Cards are not (as I write this) performing Monday nights at Banjo Jim’s — for the time being — but all things are mutable.
As I’ve written, the downtown haunt Banjo Jim’s (Avenue C and 9th Street) in New York City offers the possibility for ecstatic musical experiences when the Cangelosi Cards take the floor. Literally, it is the floor, since there is no demarcation between the audience, the dancers, and the band . . . which is perhaps as it should be.
I visited the Cards one week ago at their Monday-night gig and captured their first exuberant performance of WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, featuring Tamar Korn, singing and percussive effects; Jake Sanders, guitar; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and mandolin; Matt Musselman, trombone; Marcus Milius, harmonica; Gordon Webster, piano; Cassidy Holden, bass. No drums, none needed.
I sat as close to the band as I could. Although I’ve always approved of the synchronicity between the Cards and the dancers, this night — as the video shows — I had reason to feel imperiled by the substantial yet graceful, wildly swinging couple dancing. I’m no swing-dance aficionado, so I wouldn’t presume to evaluate their performance, but they were so close to me that I feared a flying elbow or arcing sneaker. Fortunately, I had room enough to cower in my seat, averting any collisions, but I hope my readers appreciate the raw courage my videography demands!
What a marvel this band is — their effervescent swing, the jazz-battle that Matt and Dennis get into, and Tamar’s luminous voice floating above it all. And all this on the first tune of the night!
The two still photographs — made eerie and lovely by the light at the rear of the bandstand — were taken before the Cards began to play.
Prequel: After spending a wonderful week in Israel (during which time he had, curiously or presciently, found the spot where he wanted his cremated ashes scattered), Sam Parkins fell gravely ill. We lost him on November 18, 2009.
Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye
I Wish That I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
I’m A Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas
On the Alamo
These were the songs that Sam choose to play (and sing boisterously!) as solos over this last year or so since I met him. And what a Sam list it is: ebullient, eccentric, retro but vividly alive, audience-engaging, and-in the case of “On the Alamo”-very, very tender.
Sam’s musical artistry was all this. He played clarinet and tenor saxophone with a gutsy intensity that could blow right through you, but sometimes the yearning tore you in half instead. He worked professionally in idioms ranging from classical (his training) to post-swing to traditional (his heartbeat). This last year found him playing with musicians spanning 60 years in age, including regular appearances with the Gotham Jazzmen and Ronnie Washam & Friends and guesting with the Cangelosi Cards. Music never got old for Sam. There was always a new clarinet on the horizon.
And that wasn’t the half of it, either. The record business knew him as a first-rate producer for over 25 years, issuing albums of artists as diverse as Charles Ives to Cecil Taylor to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band-and in his humanistic way he championed them all. (He also won a European Grammy, 4 Grammy nominations and was praised by Gary Giddins in a recent online interview as a “solid, canny producer.”) He composed chorales of startling complexity with lyrics based on Biblical references. His engrossing, ever-evolving memoir and/or ebook chronicled the musical/political/social/historical/personal cataclysms and vagaries of the last three-quarters of a century in an emotive-intellectual-poetic style, Pauline Kael crossed with Dylan Thomas.
My husband, writer Robert Levin, and I came to know Sam through the NYC traditional jazz scene and he embraced us immediately. At one point, at his request, we’d hoped to work with him on his voluminous “Journey to Bohemia” project. As can happen, however, with 3 professional agendas, he wanted both too much and too little from us, and after a delightful but revealing dinner at his apartment we realized with heavy hearts that we would have to extricate ourselves from involvement. BUT: Not to worry, dear people, said he, let’s just be friends!
So Sam. It seems clear that this smart man was remarkably able to reconcile conflicting styles, eras, genres, desires, people, and get to the good part. He knew what to keep, and he had about a billion friends because of that. Also, because he LOVED them, and so many things. He loved riding his bicycle in Central Park. He loved his cats. He loved sharing nature photography. He loved his country. He missed his wife.
And it was so Sam of the life-affirming Mr. Parkins to die on vacation, seeing beautiful things, visiting dear friends, choosing where he wanted to Rest (but maybe not so soon). Goodbye tootsie goodbye, you ding dong daddy you–and may flights of angels…
R.I.P. LEROY “SAM” PARKINS
Postscript: the photograph of Sam was taken at the 2008 New Year’s Eve party at David Ostwald’s apartment. David is to Sam’s left, Howard Alden and Joe Muranyi to his right.
Leroy “Sam” Parkins, clarinetist, raconteur, and enthusiastic friend of this blog, died in Israel on November 18, 2009: he was 83.
Sam loved beautiful photographs, so I offer this sunset, taken from a window on the Upper West Side, in his memory.
I am an unabashed jazz matchmaker: I tried to get Whitney Balliett to hear Kevin Dorn, but Whitney died before it could happen. But I succeeded in getting Sam to jam with the Cangelosi Cards — only once, alas — but I captured a set with my Flip video camera.
That was February 2, 2009, at Banjo Jim’s — and Sam had a wonderful time amidst Tamar Korn, Jake Sanders, Dennis Lichtman, Karl Meyer, Marcus Milius, Gordon Webster, and Cassidy Holden.
Thanks to Eve Polich, I learned that the Cangelosi Cards debut CD was not only finished but on sale. I’d been thinking about this disc since Tamar Korn had said that the Cards were making their first-ever formal recording.
But at the same time, bringing this extraordinary group into a recording studio made me anxious. The Cards create an ecstatic spectacle whenever they perform. Even if there isn’t a whole line of dancers in front of the band, the music makes everyone bond joyously, and the band climbs higher and higher.
I’ve been at recording sessions, observing the most experienced professionals, and I know the effect that even the most congenial studio can have on creative improvisers. Everyone plays splendidly, but there is the chilling effect of being watched too closely, of having your every breath recorded — literally — for posterity. It’s a rare band that’s totally relaxed in the studio, and most musicians seem exhausted at the end of the session, relieved that it’s over, vaguely dissatisfied with the results. I wondered if the artificial environment of the recording studio would cause the Cards to lose some of their exquisite energies?
I need not have worried. Yes, there’s no crowd audible on the CD, and the absence of enthusiastic noise took a few minutes to get used to. But the music comes through more clearly than it ever does in live performance. I hear nuances of timbre in solo and ensemble that I would only have sensed in a club. And the Cards seem not at all intimidated by the microphones, the weight of being captured for immortality. From the first notes of MY BLUE HEAVEN, the Cards rock — without strain or tension, but with a graceful intensity. The rhythm section is splendidly easy; the front-line players show off their distinctive voices and timbres. Subtle, convincing little arrangements, too. As we’ve seen, the Cards are full of surprises: no performance is predictable, although there is none of that irritating seeking-after-novelty that distinguishes lesser groups. You’ll hear a persuasive, irresistible swing that gives way to tender ballad playing, in their characteristically varied repertoire — hinting at Billie Holiday and Jimmie Rodgers, to mention only two names.
Tamar’s voice is, as always, a delight — and in this form, I can hear textures that a club audience might have over-ridden. She sings sweetly, growls the blues, becomes her own trumpet / hi-hat cymbal, and yodels — her focused but expansive vocal instrument responding to every nuance of the music. And I truly admire the witty trombone playing of Musselman, Lichtman’s fluent clarinet and eloquent mandolin work, Milius’s forceful harmonica solos, Meyer’s perfectly poised violin playing, Sanders’ solid rhythm playing and eloquent lines, Holden’s deep-down bass support, and Webster’s nimble, searching piano. The Cards would have been welcome on Fifty-Second Street in its glory days: hear the rocking momentum they create on IDA, as well as the Victorian delicacy of TREASURES UNTOLD.
And, although it seems paradoxical, the disc isn’t too long. Many CDs are filled to the brim with twenty similar performances, making listening to them somewhat exhausting. The eight selections here are a wonderfully satisfying banquet.
The details? The CD is available for $10 from La Compania de Musicos Viajeros (www.losmusicosviajeros.net) 718-744-7391; email is email@example.com. Obviously, the ideal way to buy it is to pick up several copies at a Cards appearance. Why “several copies”? They make ideal gifts; they will be collectors’ items; they help fund this irreplaceable band. But you already have figured that out. I heard rumblings that it would be possible to download the music from the site, but you’d have to check there.
The disc is called THE CANGELOSI CARDS: CLINTON STREET RECORDINGS. My Blue Heaven / It’s Like Reaching For The Moon / Blue Yodel No. 2 / Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider / September Song / Puttin’ On The Ritz / Treasures Untold / The Anniversary Song. It features the full octet: Jake Sanders, guitar; Tamar Korn, vocals; Cassidy Holden, bass; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and mandolin; Marcus Millius, harmonica; Karl Meyer, violin; Gordon Webster, piano.
It delights me — and I can’t wait until the next one!