Tag Archives: Charlie Caranicas

MORE CAPTAIN VIDEO! KEVIN DORN AND THE TJC, NOVEMBER 10, 2008

One of the highlights of my recent life has been getting to know and to admire Kevin Dorn — a creative musician blessed with singular perceptions.  He’s been leading his own Traditional Jazz Collective, a stirring group of improvisers.  Here’s a recent incarnation of the TJC at Banjo Jim’s, doing a fast one and a slow one.  From the left, there’s Michael Hashim on alto sax, Kevin on drums, Charlie Caranicas on cornet, J. Walter Hawkes on trombone and vocal, and Jesse Gelber on piano.  Nadia’s in the audience, although she’s hard to see here.

First, the TJC has an energetic workout on “Everybody Loves My Baby,” which goes back to the middle Twenties but has lost none of its liveliness:

When the TJC had a regular Monday-night gig at the Cajun, one of the songs I loved most was J. Walter Hawkes’s slow, soulful rendition of “Rose Room.”  Most of us Art Hickman’s ballad simply as an instrumental, as a set of chord changes to improvise on at a medium tempo, but JWH, sweetly perverse, sings it as it was originally written: a yearning plaint.

“Oh! to be sweetly reclining.”

I didn’t request that Walter sing this one, but I’m thrilled to have caught it on video — and to be able to share it here.  (Did you know that he’s an Emmy-award winning composer as well as one of the great unheralded jazz trombonists?  You do now.)

Kevin and the TJC appear intermittently at a variety of New York jazz haunts, including the Garage; Kevin himself plays with the Gully Low Jazz Band at Birdland and with John Gill at The Ear Inn.  Check his website, on my blogroll, for vital information on when and where you can hear him play.

MUSIC IN THE MOMENT: NOVEMBER 10, 2008

In the spirit of the previous post, where I paradoxically urged my readers to stop reading, to abandon their screens to go hear some live jazz, I have a Real Gig to be enthusiastic about.

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That thinking drummer Kevin Dorn will be leading his Traditional Jazz Collective — the title alone should tell you that it is both serious and playful — for a one-hour set at Banjo Jim’s (that’s Avenue C and Ninth Street), 8:30 – 9:30 PM on Monday, November 10.  The TJC will include some of the finest players I know: trumpeter Charlie Caranicas, trombonist and soulful singer J. Walter Hawkes, pianist-singer Jesse Gelber, and other friends.  We used to be lucky enough to hear versions of this band on Monday nights at the vanished Cajun, so this is a treat.

I’ve written elsewhere about Kevin as a musician (check out his website, http://www.kevindorn.com) but here I want to say a few words about him as a philosopher-artist.  Kevin thinks about the music — not breaking it down into tiny theoretical toast-crumbs, but considering what it is to play jazz.  It isn’t, for him, a matter of copying a record or a style; it isn’t a matter of making sure you insert your favorite technically-impressive licks in every solo; it isn’t trying to “sound like” anyone but yourself.  Music, for Kevin and his pals, is a living thing — it happens under their fingers, as we watch and marvel.  They know how to play, but they abandon themselves to the music, and are often happily surprised at where they end up, whether they are stomping through “Limehouse Blues,” “Louisiana,” or breathing new life into “Royal Garden Blues.”

And, as a happy postscript, the Cangelosi Cards — featuring the slow-burning Jake Sanders and Tamar Korn — will follow the TJC.  For some of us, the next day (Veterans’ Day) is a holiday, so this is reason to celebrate.  “We called it music,” said Eddie Condon, “Guess that’s good enough.”  For me, it certainly is.

THE MANY FACES OF CHARLIE CARANICAS

I first heard the impressive trumpet player Charlie Caranicas one night in 2005 at the much-missed jazz club, The Cajun, when he was part of Kevin Dorn’s devil-may-care ensemble, the Traditional Jazz Collective. Tall and serious-looking, Charlie offered one shapely solo after another, playing throughout the range of his horn with a glossy brilliance, never straining for effect but making us sit up and take admiring notice. He had his own sound, his own easy swing. At the time, he had only one CD under his own name, GREEN CHIMNEYS.

But there’s cause for celebration: a new duet CD featuring Charlie and pianist Tom Roberts has come out, and he has recorded another as a sideman with pianist Jesse Gelber and singer Kate Manning. A veritable onslaught of Caranicas!

His most recent CD, MOVE OVER (Black Knight Records) is compelling, whether it’s romping or thoughtful. I leave the entire history of trumpet (cornet) piano duets to Phil Schaap’s learned notes. This CD captures Charlie’s lovely sound and amazing stylistic range. That last phrase might alarm some readers, but Charlie is real to the core. He’s not another one of those players who can “do” the whole history of jazz, making all local stops — but it’s all synthetic. (You can draw up your own list of such highly-praised players, slithering from one unconvincing pastiche after another: no need to abuse them here.)

Charlie gets under the skin of the song he’s playing: he can comfortably settle down in Twenties Louis (“Once In A While,” “Wild Man Blues,” a muted “Willie the Weeper,” and my favorite, “Yes, I’m In the Barrel”) without being hemmed in by stylistic conventions. And “Move Over,” the CD’s title track, evokes the whole Ellington band — in addition, it’s a fine, neglected song. Charlie’s “I’m Comin’ Virginia,” a heartfelt tribute, has a bounce, rather than being another semi-elegiac homage to Bix. And catch Charlie’s admirable technique in the closing arpeggio, ascending into the sky! His versions of two of the most beautiful melodies imaginable, “Lotus Blossom” and “Blame It On My Youth” are all heart. The repertoire is admittedly traditional, but Charlie’s traditionalism isn’t narrow: his solos have the energy of the great Swing Era trumpeters, but I also found myself thinking of Clifford Brown’s recordings with strings. And the comparison does Charlie every credit.

The other half of the duo, Tom Roberts, is a masterful accompanist, whose knowledge of the piano tradition is happily on display at every turn. Here’s a Morton flourish, a singing Stacy line, a Hines tremolo, some fervent stride. His solos dance and strut, but it’s his teamwork, generous and intuitive, that shines. This one’s a keeper! Check out www.charliejazz.com or call 800-543-9158 for more information, or if your local record store (remember record stores?) is all out, the Caranicas bin understandably depleted.

About GREEN CHIMNEYS. I had to ask Charlie to dig out a copy of his 1994 CD for me, and it may be a rarity, hard to find. But it’s worth searching for. On it, he plays fluegelhorn as well as trumpet, and is joined by reedman Bob Parsons, pianist Frank Kimbrough, Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, and Tim Horner on drums and percussion. On the surface, it is a post-bop excursion worlds away from MOVE OVER, but that’s only the surface. The opening track rocks Monk’s dissonant blues as it deserves, with Parsons’ tart alto perfectly paired to Charlie (over a propulsive rhythm section). Because much of the music is blues-based, I thought of the Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley groups, but there’s a timeless swing to the CD — with Charlie summoning up Sweets Edison and a whole host of Ellington brass. I was particularly moved by his touching “Diane,” Strayhorn-inspired without being derivative. His “Prelude and Jam” begins as a growly soliloquy, then with Parsons’ lovely clarinet flourishes underneath, turns the corner into a soundtrack for a yet-unfilmed adventure movie. “Makin’ Whoopee” is a properly winking trumpet-bass duet. Even at the fastest tempos, Charlie doesn’t do what Louis Armstrong deplored: he doesn’t “run away from his notes,” and every one’s a pearl.

As fine a leader as Charlie is, he’s also a peerless sideman, getting in to the mood of whatever ensemble he’s in. A particularly happy example of this is GELBER AND MANNING GOES PUBLIC, subtitled “The Latest Musical Gaiety,” an accurate description for sure. Gelber is Jesse, an energetic pianist-singer (and underrated composer) who goes his own ways at the keyboard, concocting his own heady version of stride and parlor piano. His partner, Kate Manning, is blessed with a wondrous voice — as brassy as Judy Garland at her best, as tender as Mildred Bailey at her most blue. What distinguishes them from anyone else now performing is that they have An Act with the most novel repertoire: good songs, mostly frisky but a few yearning, from the Public Domain — before anyone reading this post was born, perhaps. Their CD and live appearances also feature a line of snappy boy-girl patter (wistful, romantic, or double-entendre) that would have made them the hit of the Keith-Orpheum circuit. On their CD, they are nobly supported by our men Charlie and Kevin Dorn. You can rely on Kevin to keep a steady, rocking four-bar pulse, ornamented with touches of Krupa, Wettling, or Leeman, and Charlie offers “hot” playing that made me think of a caffeinated Muggsy Spanier who had left all his cliches at home. You’ll have to hear the CD to savor its pleasures, and I urge you to do so (check out www.gelbermusic.com).

Charlie and his friends, whatever the context, are multi-talented, highly rewarding players.