Jazz festivals are like people you meet on a first date: some make you look for the exit within five minutes; some you warm to in spite of their odd ways; some you fall for wholeheartedly. The Redwoood Coast Music Festival is my best example of the festival-as-heartthrob.
I’ve only been there once — the green hills and endless vistas that 2019 now seems to be — but I can’t wait to go back. And I spent 2004-20 chasing festival delights in New York, Cleveland, California, England, and Germany, so I have some experience from which to speak.
But why should my enthusiasm matter to you? For all you know, I am being paid wheelbarrows of currency to write this. (I promise you it ain’t so.) Let’s look at some evidence. Caveat: not everyone seen and heard in my 2019 videos is coming to the 2022 festival, but they will serve as a slice of heavenly experience.
Hal Smith’s ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND plays IDA:
The Carl Sonny Leyland – Little Charlie Baty Houserockers turn our faces a bright CHERRY RED:
The Jonathan Doyle Swingtet ensures everyone has a CASTLE ROCK:
An interlude for prose.
The poster shows that this is no ordinary jazz festival, relying on a small group of bands and singers within a particular idiom. No, the RCMF offers an aural tasting menu astonishing in its breadth and authenticity.
And hilariously that causes problems — ever since Sir Isaac Newton pointed out that no one can be two places at once, the RCMF makes me want to smack Sir Isaac and say in a loud whine, “Why CAN’T I see / record three groups at three separate venues at once? It’s not fair.” Even I, someone who doesn’t feel the same way about zydeco as I do about swinging jazz, had moral crises at every turn because the variety of delicious choices set out for me eight times a day was overwhelming. (At some festivals, I had time to sit outside and leisurely eat gelato with friends: no such respites at the RCMF. A knapsack full of KIND bars and water bottles just won’t be enough: I need a whole medical staff in attendance.)
What else needs to be said? The prices are more than reasonable, even in these perilous times, for the value-calculation of music per dollar. If you don’t go home sated, you haven’t been trying hard enough. And the couple who seem to be everywhere, helping people out, Mark and Val Jansen, are from another planet where gently amused kindness is the universal language.
Some more music, perhaps?
Walter Donaldson’s LITTLE WHITE LIES by the Jonathan Doyle – Jacob Zimmerman Sextet:
A Charlie Christian tribute featuring Little Charlie Baty and Jamey Cummins on guitar for SEVEN COME ELEVEN:
Asking the musical question, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THE MILL? — Elana James, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, and assorted gifted rascals:
Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales play TABU. Hand me that glass:
KRAZY KAPERS, irresistibly, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:
BLUE LESTER, from Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:
So . . . even though the world, as delineated in the headlines, is so uncertain, consider ungluing yourself from your chair at the end of September. Carpe the damn diem, as we say.
http://www.rcmfest.org/ is the festival’s website; here they are on Facebook. Make it so that something wonderful is, as Irving Berlin wrote, WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD for you, for all of us:
The trombonist Charlie Halloran has a sweetly audacious imagination. We can all say, “I wonder what this combination of musical experiences would sound like”; Charlie goes ahead and gives his brightly-colored set of possibilities musical shape. And the surprises that result are so very pleasing. Before I introduce you to his latest creation, I would go back a few years to praise one from the past:
Charlie is the first-call trombonist in New Orleans, which means that he plays with a variety of bands — Tuba Skinny, the Shotgun Jazz Band, the Little Big Horns, his own Quality Six, and more. He’s come up to New York to be a featured guest with the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, where he played nobly and made everyone happy. But I think his heart beats fastest (without rushing, mind you) to a larger world-view than SOMEDAY SWEETHEART.
Charlie has immersed himself in that wonderful Venn diagram where New Orleans jazz meets the music of the Caribbean, as astute listeners could hear above. This brings listeners to places they’ve never been but where the music is — although the songs are new — deeply heartfelt and satisfying. When I first began to listen to CE BIGUINE, for example, I thought within a few minutes, “This is going to be one of my favorite discs, full of embracing surprises.” And it’s remained so. When I heard Charlie play some of the same music at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, I looked away from my camera to see the room swaying, the band playing. Smiles proliferated. And the room was gently sashaying in time.
Charlie’s new CD, THE ALCOA SESSIONS, is just extraordinary: not a simple plastic disc with good sounds embossed digitally into it, but a combination of a novel, a travelogue, a happy series of musical voyages to places that only exist in our ears and imaginations. Here’s the cover: doesn’t it make you feel like finding sandals and sunscreen? (It’s not even lunchtime as I write this, but a mojito dances before my eyes.)
But I hear you saying. “Alcoa. Isn’t that an antique brand of aluminum foil? What has all this got to do with music?” Patience. All will be revealed.
The Alcoa Sessions
Tomas Majcherski……Tenor Sax
Jonathan Doyle….Tenor Sax. Clarinet.
Don Vappie, John Rodli and John Maestas………..Guitar
Tyler Thomson, Pete Olinciw……..Bass
Joe Lastie, Doug Garrison, Chris Davis……..Drums
Larry Sieberth, David Boeddinghaus…….Piano
Dédé St. Prix, Drew Gonsalves, Don Vappie………Vocals
Now, a pause for some enlivening musical evidence:
Trombonist Charlie Halloran’s fifth album, and first on the ArtistShare label, imagines the musical experience aboard cruises run by the Alcoa Steamship Co. out of New Orleans from 1949-1959. Pulling from dance band repertoire of Mid Century New Orleans, Trinidad, Venezuela and Guadeloupe, the Alcoa Sessions presents a band in the style of Paul Barbarin or Dave Bartholomew, augmented by Cuban percussion, French Creole and calypso vocals, fully leaning into the Crescent City’s placement as the northernmost city in the Caribbean.
Don Vappie leads the band through “When I Was a Little Child,” a swinging creole number from the Paul Barbarin / John Bruinous band, followed by the appropriately titled “Everybody’s Wailin’,” originally recorded by Huey Piano Smith.
By now the cruise has left the Mississippi River and we begin to explore ports further south. Considered Venezuela’s unofficial national anthem, “Alma Llanera” is given a Trinidadian dance band treatment ala Johnny Gomez. The moody and exotic “Margarita Rosa” comes from the Fitz Vaughan Bryan Orchestra, another dance band working in Port of Spain throughout the 1950s.
Back on the boat now, Halloran provides the vocals for the old jazzstandard, “I Used To Love (But It’s All Over)”. 1950s New Orleans saw the explosion of seminal Rock and Roll and R&B recordings, so surely a New Orleans dance band of the era would be ready to let rip on a tune such as Dave Bartholomew’s “Twins” featuring fine trumpet work here from Mike Davis.
Lionel Belasco was a prolific composer working in Barbardos, Trinidad, Venezuela and New York City through the 1960s. His composition “Miranda” is a Venezuelan waltz and provides theperfect outlet for practicing some Arthur Murray dance steps, whose classes were often taught on these cruises. But don’t get too comfortable in 3/4, as Martinique’s Dédé St. Prix is up next to lead the band through “Moune a ou, ce moune a ou,” a brisk biguine from the French Caribbean, featuring the interplay between the trombone and reeds, particularly Tomas Majcherski’s tenor, giving the trumpet player a moment to grab a drink.
Jonathan Doyle steps to the front on the raucous, “Feeling Good”, harkening to Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen and the screaming tenor saxdriven R&B of the 1950s. Trinidadian/Canadian singer Drew Gonsalves of the band Kobotown joins the band for a humorous calypso from Lord Funny, featuring Gonsalves’ infectious rhythm and cadence.
The band swings out the last two numbers, first with the uptempo “Goodnight” written by Pat Castagne for the sign-off music for Radio Trinidad, and finally the dreamy tropical standard, “Song of the Islands.”
The “Alcoa Sessions” mines wonderful, under the radar repertoire, allof it danceable and from the era when calypso, biguine, R&B, and traditional New Orleans Jazz were exploding and intermingling, alongside the tiki craze, mambo and tropicalia. The Alcoa Steamship company used music imagery and language in their ads and brochures, and Halloran’s “The Alcoa Sessions” is sure to melt the ice in your drink and have you packing your suitcase for a TWA plane bound for warmer climes this winter.
Excited? I certainly was. You can check in here to hear a sample, purchase a download or a disc. Echoes of calypso, early rhythm and blues, and delicious old-school NOLA music. I’ve heard the music and am delighted. You will be, too.
I’ll let Charlie have the last word(s):
I like to imagine a young band aboard the Alcoa steamships,comfortable playing traditional jazz and New Orleans R&B, but incorporating local musicians while in port, blending calypso, beguine, and mazurkas, with their New Orleans sensibilities. This album will feature the sounds likely heard on a 13 day excursion from New Orleans through the Caribbean on the Alcoa Clipper, Corsair, and Cavalier.
Many compact discs are like visits to a new restaurant with a tasting menu. The listener has course after course brought to them, and with luck, every dish is not only delightful in itself but part of a larger experience. And one makes a mental note to go back and bring friends. Sometimes, of course, one beckons to the waitperson and says, “Please, can we skip ahead? I’m not happy with this. If you’d just bring me the flourless chocolate cake and the check, that would be great.” And the CD goes into that purgatory between give-to-a-friend-or-the-thrift-store-or keep-for-the-moment-but-not-forever.
The new CD, COUNTERMELODY (Dot Time Records), by Evan Arntzen and esteemed friends, isn’t a meal: it’s a brightly-colored, many-sided journey. Details here and here if the names above have already convinced you.
Before you read a word more, two samples which will reveal much and reward more:
SOLITARITY, by Evan:
and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, sung by Catherine Russell:
Although the terms “old” and “new” are dangerously weighted and too binary, COUNTERMELODY is a shining showcase for “old” music (nearly a hundred years old) played as “new,” and “new” music that passionately embraces “old” traditions. SOLITARITY is delightfully weird — that’s a compliment — but it also sounds so much like a New Orleans funeral, mournful and exultant at once. And to borrow from Billy Wilder, each of the musicians here has a face, a vivid, glowing singularity — a set of big voices, and I don’t simply mean Catherine Russell’s combination of trumpet and cello and full orchestra. Speaking of singers, Evan’s vocal rendition of GEORGIA CABIN is perfectly dreamy. I don’t want him to put down his horns, but he could do a lovely vocal album.
But back to the journey I was describing. The CD begins with a half-dozen “traditional” songs — MUSKRAT RAMBLE, 18th STREET STRUT, CAMP MEETING BLUES, GEORGIA CABIN, PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES, and WHEN ERASTUS PLAYS HIS OLD KAZOO. Connoisseurs will check off the homages to Ory, Moten, Oliver, Bechet, Louis, and Dodds. But these are not formulaic choices. They come from a deep immersion in the repertoire and a desire to do the music homage in its full glory, not in the eleven tunes that everyone plays. The performances are totally energized but also respectful of the original outlines of the songs and of performance practice. The ensembles are strong (having two trumpets who can kitten-tussle in mid-air is a great thing) and the solos fierce or fiercely tender.
Then, SMILES, usually played and sung with a certain amount of sentimentality, whether it’s by Charles La Vere or Chick Bullock: the musical equivalent of a 1925 Valentine’s postcard, cherubs and hearts crowding in. But not here:
That’s two minutes and thirty-four seconds of exuberance. My initial reaction was “WHAT?!” But I was properly smiling as Evan and Charlie chased each other around the backyard, twin five-year olds who have eaten too much Halloween candy. Honoring the innovators implies a certain amount of possibly-disrespectful but loving innovation: the result is immensely restorative. While my nerve endings were still tingling, I had the rare pleasure of hearing Catherine Russell sing IF YOU WERE MINE as no one, including Billie, ever sang it, complete with the verse, which I’d never heard. A properly churchy DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE follows, then originals by Halloran, Kellso, Benny Green, and Evan . . . and the disc concludes with two brief cylinder recordings of AFTER YOU’VE GONE and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, created by the band and the master of hot archaisms, Colin Hancock.
After that, I wanted a glass of ice water, and, after a pause, to play COUNTERMELODY again, and tell my friends, as I am doing here.
So don’t be the last one on your block to walk around humming and grinning because of COUNTERMELODY. You can receive it in its lovely package (fine notes by producer Scout Opatut) or digitally, here or here.
Postscript: someone said of me, with an edge, “Michael only writes good reviews,” to which I responded, when I heard, “I only review good music.” COUNTERMELODY is over the moon and beyond the beyonds in that way.
Whatever musical project Hal Smith dreams up will be melodic and swinging, and his ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND is a fine example. I’ve posted videos from many sets this band has played — at various festivals — and here are a few more, performed on May 12, 2019, at the very gratifying Redwood Coast Music Festival. The first part of that set is hereand — as if by magic! — the second is here. (In the amateurish candid photo below, something good is happening in the rhythm section — the usual procedure!)
Three more splendid interludes from the band — Hal, drums; Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Kris Tokarski, piano; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Ben Polcer, trumpet.
GRACE AND BEAUTY, by Kris Tokarski, Joshua Gouzy, Hal Smith:
There will be more videos to come from this band at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, and I dream of a 2021 reunion there . . . .
I especially admire musicians who know that there’s no race to get There, wherever There is. Sarah Spencer told me long ago that in New Orleans, proper tempo was a comfortable walking pace. Of course, some jazz tunes seem to require a sprint, but an easy saunter allows melodies to float in the air.
Hal Smith knows this, and his “On the Levee” band plays danceable New Orleans jazz, inspired equally by the later Kid Ory bands and the splendid individualists who make hot and lyrical sounds right now. Along with Hal on drums, there’s Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Kris Tokarski, piano; Ben Polcer, trumpet; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Charlie Halloran, trombone. Here’s a second helping of performances from a set that OTL played at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 12, 2019. And if you weren’t around for the first bowl of hot gumbo, hereit is.
Now, for more. This one’s always in honor of Hal’s and my Auntie, Ida Melrose Shoufler:
“CREOLE SONG,” with “the guest mystery vocalist”:
“SISTER KATE,” or “GET OFF KATIE’S HEAD,” your preference — or Katie’s:
and an ODJB classic that might require more vigorous leg motion:
More to come. I look forward to the days when I (and all of us) can see ON THE LEVEE with — as I am told they say in Maryland — “our own two lookin’ eyes” and when we can gather at the Redwood Coast Music Festival — that’s September 30 to October 3, 2021.
Michael Gamble amid friends. How many swing stars do you recognize?
In person, bandleader-string bassist Michael Gamble is quiet and unassuming, but he really knows how to swing. It’s a pleasure to tell you about four new digital-EP releases by his virtual groups, now available at Bandcamp. Those who like can skip the rest of this post and go directly there to listen.
They sound great, which is particularly remarkable, considering how hard the musicians have to work to make music in “isolation sessions.”
Michael explains, “All recordings from this series were made remotely, each of the 18 musicians (from 9 states) playing either in their homes, home-studios, or whatever they could make work! Despite the logistical challenges, we were determined to make an artistically cohesive and exciting project. Sections were pieced together painstakingly to make sure that no part was recorded prior to something that it needed to react creatively to, which often required multiple takes by the same musician on the same tune, spread over weeks. We believe the result — while certainly different in feel than prior Rhythm Serenaders albums which were recorded live in a single room — is a special set of recordings with their own completely unique flavor. We hope they’ll be enjoyed for years to come!”
I can swear to that last sentence. Without a hint of museum dustiness, it is as if Michael and friends lifted me out of my chair and teleported me to splendid sessions truly happening, let us say, between 1934 and 1947. Or, if you prefer, he came to my house and gave me a waist-high stack of perfectly recorded 16″ transcription discs of all my heroes and heroines. Both of those science-fiction scenarios require a suspension of disbelief: all you have to do to drink at the extraordinary Fountain of Swing is to go here and buy yourself and friends holiday and early-holiday and post-holiday presents. (Friday, December 4, by the way, is one of Bandcamp’s special days where all the proceeds go to the musicians, with no fees deducted, so it’s a wonderful time to do this.)
The musical worlds (note plural) Michael and friends live in are so spacious that each of these has its own distinctive flavor, which I will try to describe.
Volume One, LATCH ON TO THAT RHYTHM, goes like this: Somebody Loves Me / Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise / Lester Smooths It Out / Bounce Me Brother, with a Solid Four / Did I Remember? / Joe Louis Stomp / One Never Knows, Does One? and the musicians are Laura Windley, vocals (1, 4, 5, 7); Dan Levinson, clarinet / tenor; Noah Hocker, trumpet; Jonathan Stout, acoustic and electric guitars / Chris Dawson, piano; Michael Gamble, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. The overall flavor is multi-layered, with tastes of mid-Thirties Wilson and Billie, the Gramercy Five, and a splendid infusion of 1946 Aladdin and Keynote. Even if the references mean little to you, hear how good the band sounds on JOE LOUIS STOMP. And listen to Laura Windley work her magic on ONE NEVER KNOWS, DOES ONE?— that rarest of compositions, a song about the magic of love balancing frail hope and deep melancholy. (By the way, it’s a Mack Gordon-Harry Revel creation from 1936, and although everyone knows it from Billie, it’s first sung by Alice Faye in a Shirley Temple film. Consider that.)
Volume Two, EFFERVESCENT SWING, features A Sunbonnet Blue (and a Yellow Straw Hat) / Coquette / Me, Myself, and I / South / Am I Blue? / Sweet Sue / Effervescent Blues / Tickle-Toe, and some of the same rascals are present: Laura Windley (1, 3, 5); Dan Levinson (tenor 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; clarinet 5; alto 8); Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8; tenor 6); David Jellema, cornet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jonathan Stout; James Posedel, piano; Michael Gamble, Hal Smith. The flavors — still delicious — are a little different. Think the small-group Basie riffing of the Kansas City Six; toss with Reuss and Catlett seasonings; add some Commodore Condon rideouts; mix gently with the Charlie Christian – Benny Goodman Sextet (yes, I have those names in the right order); several tablespoons of 1938 Bobby Hackett, top with modern tailgate from Charlie Halloran, and you get the idea. And the three songs associated with Billie — and sung gloriously by Laura — have sly arrangements that honor the period but don’t copy the records. For one instance only, hear how the rideout of ME, MYSELF, AND I nods to LAUGHING AT LIFE, and Michael’s cross-dressing riffs that start off AM I BLUE remarkably. So rewarding. For musical samples, hie thyself to the Bandcamp page!
Volume Three, DIGGIN’ IN THE DEN, offers these daily specials: Good Morning Blues / Scuttlebutt / I’m Painting the Town Red / Tumble Bug / It’s Like Reaching for the Moon / Diggin’ in the Den / Honeysuckle Rose — performed by these swing alchemists, Laura Windley (3, 5); Keenan McKenzie (clarinet / tenor); Gordon Au (trumpet); Jonathan Stout; Craig Gildner (piano); Michael Gamble; Riley Baker (drums). Here, the recipe calls for a dark Kansas City groove (think Eddie Durham, Lips Page, Dick Wilson), with equal parts Gramercy 5 pre-bop gloss, Lady Day Vocalions (the gorgeous trumpet-tenor interplay at the start of IT’S LIKE REACHING FOR THE MOON) — all mixed together with modern ingenuity harking back to Basie and Ellington small groups but sounding fresh — even on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, which (admit it!) has been played to shreds in its various incarnations.
Volume Four THE GAMBLER, unwraps its digital box to reveal these gifts: Something to Pat Your Foot To / The Gambler / Smokey Shoulders / Sunday / Cotton Tail / Night Bloom / What’s the Fuss? / Bottoms Up. The musicians radiating expert joy here are Laura Windley (4); Keenan McKenzie (clarinet and tenor); Jacob Zimmerman (clarinet and alto); Gordon Au; Lucian Cobb (trombone); Jonathan Stout; Chris Dawson; Michael Gamble; Josh Collazo (drums). Here the aura is pleasantly situated between just-after-the-war sessions led by Sir Charles Thompson and Illinois Jacquet and the late-Forties Basie band. I hear a good deal of mute work from the brass (all those not-terribly frightening snarls and growls) and glistening late-Forties electrified Reuss, with reed playing that soars and slides. COTTON TAIL leaps over the fence likea caffeinated bunny, the originals stick in my head — always a good sign — and the last few tracks nudge so wondrously into what I’d call 1951 Clef Records territory.
If you’ve lost your way in the forest of words, the musical oasis can be found here. I encourage you to visit there now, or December 4, or any old time.
Three things. One is that I listened to all four discs in one sitting (a tea break between Two and Three doesn’t count) with delight, never looking at my watch.
Second, if you ever meet one of the Official Jazz Codgers who grumps, “Oh, these kids today try, but they don’t know how to swing,” I encourage you to box his ears with digital copies of this music — a wild metaphor, but you’ll figure it out — until he stops speaking nonsense.
Three, a paradox. These are “isolation sessions,” with everyone miles apart, earbuds or headsets, praying for swing synchronicity — and that is a miracle itself. (Ask any musician who’s participated in such rigors.) But as I listen to this music, I feel much less alone — less isolated, to be exact. Try it and see if you don’t feel the same way.
Hal Smith’s “On the Levee” band plays danceable New Orleans jazz, inspired equally by the later Kid Ory bands and the splendid individualists who make hot / lyrical sounds right now. Along with Hal on drums, there’s Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Kris Tokarski, piano; Ben Polcer, trumpet; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Charlie Halloran, trombone. Here are the first three performances from a set that OTL played at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 12, 2019. Keep absolutely still as you listen: I dare you.
COME BACK, SWEET PAPA:
BEALE STREET BLUES:
There will be more from this band that you haven’t seen, and I’ve presented a good deal on JAZZ LIVES: search for LEVEE and you’ll find the right spot.
In J.M. Barrie’s play of the same name, Peter Pan explains to the children how they can fly: “You just think lovely wonderful thoughts,” Peter explained, “and they lift you up in the air.” If we all do just that, perhaps we will get to hear On the Levee again soon, and we will meet again at the Redwood-Coast-Music-Festivalat the last weekend of September 2021.
I know it’s the most unwieldy title in the history of JAZZ LIVES’ unwieldy titles, but so be it. At least readers know what they’re getting, or getting into. Here I can offer you gorgeous music from the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet: Jonathan, tenor, composer; Gordon Au, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Sam Rocha, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Jamey Cummins, Alex Belhaj, guitars. Recorded on May 12, 2019, at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, the second part of a very rewarding set, and hereis the first.
Let us begin with Cole Porter’s whimsical-salacious depiction of a very practical amorous relationship, MY HEART BELONGS TO DADDY, which has a good deal of moral ambiguity to it, but who thinks about such things when sunk deeply into this groovy evocation?
More groove, more funk — Al Sears’ CASTLE ROCK:
The venerable CRAZY RHYTHM, at a surprisingly tender tempo, featuring the eloquent Charlie Halloran:
Jonathan’s own JUMP IN, JUMP OUT — which, like his other originals, shows a fully-developed compositional sense. Even when his originals are built on familiar harmonic patterns, his introductions, riffs, textures, and voicings show his expansive imagination:
Fine riffin’ this afternoon — with Illinois Jacquet’s BOTTOMS UP:
and finally, the dark-hued YOU NEVER KNEW ME AT ALL, based on a noble Thirties ballad:
Jonathan and friends were just one highlight of the immensely stirring Redwood Coast Music Festival that made my May 2019 completely memorable. Eleven months from now, there will be the 2021 version . . . and I’ll be there. It’s not too soon to start anticipating these joys and more. May 6-9, 2021. “Mark it down.”
Bouncing has been shown to have salutary therapeutic effects, so join us!
The source of all this joy is the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet, recorded in performance at the magical Redwood Coast Music Festivalon May 12, 2019. That’s Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone / compositions / arrangements; Gordon Au, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jamey Cummins [right], Alex Belhaj [left], guitars; Sam Rocha, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums. . . . captured in a still photograph by the JAZZ LIVES staff:
Now to the music played for the first half of this gratifying set — what Mildred Bailey might have called “a hot half-dozen.”
Take us back to 1943, while Coleman Hawkins stands off to the side, smiling:
and something sweet that Jonathan calls DON’T WALK OUT (the harmonic hint is this — imagine Louis’ opening number as a rhythm ballad and you have it):
Winnie the Pooh couldn’t make it, but in his honor, HONEY JAR, his love:
SLIPPERY SLOPE, perhaps named because of ascending and descending lines:
I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK. If this is true, I have to invite Jonathan and Corinne to sit in Washington Square Park in the late spring:
Thinking of Austin, Texas, zoology, where THE BATS ARE SINGING:
The best news is that Jonathan and friends will be appearing — in whatever permutations they choose — at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 7-10, 2020. Here you can see a list of the other artists, a cornucopia of musical joys that increases my heart rate dangerously.
See you there!
Even better! — here is the schedule for the Festival. I can’t wait.
Few people would recognize the portrait on its own.
But Walter Donaldson (1893-1947) wrote songs that everyone knows (or perhaps, in our collective amnesia, once knew): MY BLUE HEAVEN; LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME; AT SUNDOWN; YES SIR, THAT’S MY BABY; HOW YA GONNA KEEP THEM DOWN ON THE FARM?; MAKIN’ WHOOPEE; CAROLINA IN THE MORNING; LITTLE WHITE LIES; MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME; WHAT CAN I SAY AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY; YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, and many more — six hundred songs and counting. Ironically, the man who created so much of the American vernacular in song is little-chronicled, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, he is buried in an unmarked grave in Brooklyn. So much for Gloria Mundi.
On May 12, 2019, Jonathan Doyle (here playing bass saxophone) and Jacob Zimmerman (clarinet and alto saxophone) created a wonderful exploration of Donaldson’s less-known and often completely unknown compositions for the Redwood Coast Music Festival. Joining them were Kris Tokarski (piano); Katie Cavera (guitar); Charlie Halloran (trombone); Hal Smith (drums). Charlie had to rush off to another set, so Brandon Au takes his place for the final number, JUST THE SAME. There are some small interferences in these videos: lighting that keeps changing, dancers mysteriously magnetized by my camera, yet oblivious to it (a neat trick) but the music comes through bigger-than-life.
Ordinarily, I parcel out long sets in two segments, but I was having such fun reviewing these performances that I thought it would be cruel to make you all wait for Part Two. So here are ten, count them, Donaldson beauties — and please listen closely to the sweetness and propulsion this ad hoc ensemble gets, as well as the distinctive tonalities of each of the players — subtle alchemists all. At points, I thought of a Twenties tea-dance ensemble, sweetly wooing the listeners and dancers; at other times, a stellar hot group circa 1929, recording for OKeh. The unusual instrumentation is a delight, and the combination of Donaldson’s unerring ear for melodies and what these soloists do with “new” “old” material is, for me, a rare joy. In an ideal world, this group, playing rare music, would be “Live from Lincoln Center” or at least issuing a two-CD set. We can hope.
LITTLE WHITE LIES, still a classic mixing swing and romantic betrayal:
DID I REMEMBER? — possibly best-remembered for Billie’s 1936 recording:
SWEET JENNIE LEE! which, for me, summons up a Hit of the Week paper disc and a Frank Chace home jam session:
MAYBE IT’S THE MOON — so pretty and surprisingly unrecorded:
YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO TELL ME (I KNEW IT ALL THE TIME) — in my mind’s ear, I hear Jackson T. singing this:
SOMEBODY LIKE YOU, again, surprisingly unacknowledged:
CLOUDS, recorded by the Quintette of the Hot Club of France:
TIRED OF ME, a very touching waltz:
REACHING FOR SOMEONE (AND NOT FINDING ANYONE THERE), which enjoyed some fame because of Bix, Tram, and Bing:
JUST THE SAME, which I went away humming:
Thoroughly satisfying and intriguing as well.
I dream of the musical surprises that will happen at the 2020Redwood Coast Music Festival (May 7-10, 2020). With over a hundred sets of music spread out over four days and on eight stages, I feel comfortable saying there will be delightful surprises. Their Facebook page is here, too.
I’ve been praising Jonathan Doyle in print and in person for the past five years, give or take an enthusiastic outburst. Not only is he a superb reed player (clarinet, tenor and bass saxophones), but he’s a wonderful composer and arranger — not only on the paper but on the spot. And the music he and his friends make is a proven mood-enhancer.
Jonathan Doyle, 2015
I’ve been doling out the music from this May 11, 2019 set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival because it is so delicious that I didn’t want — myself or anyone else — to make it into smartphone background music while the listener was doing something crucial like Instagram or microwave popcorn.
Here are the final three beauties from that set — two originals by Jon, one by Buck Clayton. And in an era where some bands take a long time to get in the groove, please note that the first two performances would fit on a 10″ 78; the last one on a 12″ — maybe a Keynote or a V-Disc . . . although there’s nothing museum-dusty about this music. Ask the dancers.
And the band! The band! From the back, that’s Hal Smith, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Kris Tokarski, piano; Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone. What fun! And, for a change, let me cyber-embrace the team that makes the Redwood Coast Music Festival so memorable, here, rather than at the end of a posting: Mark and Valerie Jansen.
TELL ME IN CHICAGO:
HIGH FIVE, MR. ZEPHYR:
and SIX CATS AND A PRINCE:
I feel better now, and that’s no stage joke.
Next year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival will take place May 7-10, 2020. Miss it and you’ve missed the Acme fast freight, as Mildred Bailey sang.
And the whole set is now available on the blog: just type in “Swingtet” and you will find joys.
Here’s the second half of Charlie Halloran’s glorious set of hot and sweet island dance music, performed at the Redwood Coast Music Festival last May 11. Charlie is on trombone (and I believe research and arrangements as well); Ben Polcer, trumpet; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums. And here is the first half of their musical cocktail.
Lord Melody’s THE RIVER:
The title of Charlie’s most recent CD, CE BIGUINE:
THE RHYTHM WE WANT, which would be a good CD title:
The Mighty Sparrow’s JEAN AND DINAH:
I have it on good authority that there will definitely be another set like this at next May’s Redwood Coast Music Festival . . . I’ll be in front, grooving!
Charlie Halloran’s wonderful CD of rocking island music.
I confess that if you tapped me on my shoulder at a jazz festival and said, “Do you want to hear a band playing calypsos, music from the islands?” even though I live on one, I might be skeptical. But if you said, “Charlie Halloran is leading a group on this stage,” I would trip over myself in my eagerness to be there. (And those of you who want only ROYAL GARDEN BLUES . . . I encourage you to be brave and approach the new songs without fear.)
(I first fell in love with the music Charlie and friends create because of his Quality Six, and then his CD devoted to rocking Caribbean music, CE BIGUINE, which I’ve written about here and here.)
I didn’t have to go through this imagined playlet at the musical Garden of Delights that is the Redwood Coast Music Festival: I was ready in my seat for this set, which Charlie now calls “Charlie and the Tropicales.” Perhaps you need to know who else was there besides Charlie on trombone: Ben Polcer, trumpet; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.
Much has been said about the multi-cultural influences on what we loosely call the music of New Orleans: I’ll leave such ruminations to the cultural anthropologists — I prefer music to theorizing. And what music did Charlie and the Tropicales make! If you can listen to it without smiling and swaying, that (as they say) is your problem. And if you’ve turned away because it isn’t a jazz classic played by your favorite band, to quote Louis, “too bad for you.” Here’s music that rocks!
DOUDOU PAS PLEURE:
If you sat still in your seat through that music, let me talk to your neurologist, please. There’s a second part of this set to come . . . quickly, if you ask nicely.
The music that Jonathan Doyle writes, plays, and inspires is too expansive to fit into any box, but listening to these four glorious performances from the Redwood Coast Music Festival, I thought, “What would happen if some magical science could graft the soundtrack of JAMMIN’ THE BLUES onto the Ellington small groups and the secret John Hammond-Basie sessions of 1936-9?” That imagined concoction, a rich brew, amused me, but again it was too confining for what Jonathan does with and through his Swingtet.
I would have you note the obvious: he is a wonderfully inspired soloist and ensemble player, improvising as he goes with great feeling, but his lines are quirky and surprising, and his arrangements are so rewarding that one should revisit any performance more than twice or three times to savor the mix of soloists, ensemble passages, dynamics, timbres (delicate to raucous) which all add up to a compositional sense that keeps the fervor of a jam session / head arrangement — the results not only please but amaze.
Some of the amazement, to be accurate, comes from the singular talents Jonathan attracts — I think people on this level are eager to play alongside him and read his charts, because they thrive on the stimulation they can find here. It is as far from formulaic readings of PERDIDO or ROYAL GARDEN BLUES as one could imagine or hope for. For this set, Jonathan’s colleagues are Hal Smith, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Kris Tokarski, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar (SOME rhythm section, as E.B. White’s Charlotte would have written); Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet. All brought to you — not only by the musicians — by the generous wise pair who create the Redwood Coast Music Festival, Mark and Valerie Jansen.
Here’s more. Only the first half of Laura Glaess’ title applies here:
Jonathan’s JUST A LITTLE RIGHT:
Named for the thrilling Mister Smith:
and the gorgeously textured STEPPIN’ LIGHT:
And a brief didactic moment, which those who listen deeply can skip. I suspect, sadly, that some jazz consumers are brand-fixated, rather like children who will only eat McNuggets and drink Coke. “That’s not My Favorite Band, so I’ll skip it.” Dear consumers, take a chance and listen: beauty sprouts and blooms all through Jonathan Doyle’s Swingtet.
At the end of July, I will make my fourth visit to the Evergreen Jazz Festival, a weekend of music I look forward to avidly. The rainbow photograph comes from my first visit; unfortunately, I couldn’t find the photographs I took of elk in the parking lot, but everybody comes out for fine jazz.
A small cautionary note: I waited until almost too late to find lodging — if you plan to go to Evergreen, make arrangements now: there’s a list of places to stay on their site, noted above . . . then there’s air travel and car rental. But it’s all worth the time and money, I assure you. Last night, I landed happily in Bears Inn Bed and Breakfast, among my friends, and I feel so fortunate: thank you, Wendy!
For me, previous highlights of Evergreen have been the music of Tim Laughlin, Andy Schumm, Kris Tokarski, James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band, Hal Smith, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, the Riverboat Roustabouts, and I am leaving out many pleasures.
Here’s the band schedule for this year:
You see that great music will flourish.
I confess that my heart belongs to the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet (this weekend with John Otto in the reed chair), Hal Smith’s On the Levee Jazz Band (playing songs associated with Kid Ory in truly swinging style, with Clint Baker playing the role of the Kid) and the Carl Sonny Leyland trio, but I hope to see the Wolverine Jazz Band also . . . there are a host of local favorites as well, including Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles, Wende Hairston and the Queen City Jazz Band, After Midnight, and more.
Time for some music!
Here’s a romping tribute to Fats Waller by the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, whose debut CD “This Is So Nice It Must Be Illegal”) is a Waller tribute: that’s Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Steve Pikal, string bass, seen here at the Monterey, California Jazz Bash by the Bay on March 2, 2019. At Evergreen, the reed chair will be filled by John Otto from Chicago (you know him from the Fat Babies and Chicago Cellar Boys):
and COME BACK, SWEET PAPA by the On the Levee crew:
This band is devoted to the music of Kid Ory in his later decades, led by drummer / scholar Hal Smith, and including Charlie Halloran, trombone, Ben Polcer, trumpet, Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano, Alex Belhaj, guitar, Josh Gouzy, string bass: PAPA was recorded on November 25, 2018, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.
And finally, a real delight — Dorothy Bradford Vernon’s Thursday-night barn dance in Longmont, Colorado, featuring Carl Sonny Leyland, piano and vocals; Marty Eggers, string bass; and Jeff Hamilton, drums. Information here — wonderful music, irreplaceable atmosphere, reasonable ticket price. That’s July 25, 7:30-10:00 PM.
I will miss it this year (travel conflicts) but here’s how YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME rocked the barn last year:
I hope to see many of JAZZ LIVES’ readers and friends in Evergreen.
The gorgeous music below is sent out as a moral inducement, less of a rebuke, to the people who “don’t know how to Act Nice.”
The boss who raises his voice at a subordinate; the salesperson who tries to flatter us to make the sale; the insecure person who bullies; the driver who tailgates; the liar; the self-absorbed person too busy recounting their own exploits to ask how you might be or too busy to leave that smartphone alone . . . the list is, sadly, long, and there is no need to add to it here.
To these people I send Jonathan Doyle’s instructive but also healing gift of this performance — called DON’T BE THAT WAY — performed at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival. The artful creators are Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Kris Tokarski, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. This easy rocking performance (not too fast, thank you!) summons up Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton small-group recordings rather than the famous Benny Goodman one.
Incidentally, I don’t espouse Goodman-bashing, but the 1934 Webb recording of the song, an instrumental, has Edgar Sampson as composer; later, Mitchell Parish added lyrics; Benny added his name, as the sheet music bearing his image, twice, shows.
The Swingtet scales peaks without stressing itself or us. How splendidly they glide. Bless them! And bless Mark and Valerie Jansen for making this life-changing music happen at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, a sweet explosion of joys which will nuzzle our faces once again on May 7-10, 2020. For now:
So, please. Be any way that’s kind, easy, and compassionate. Be aware that we are all connected. Be candid, be loving. Be aware.
What does one say when the Divine decides to pay a social call? I don’t know if there’s only one answer, but mine was a quiet “Thank you,” and held-back tears.
JEEP’S BLUES — if examined analytically — is a mixture of the simplest blues phrases, phases that were part of the common musical lexicon in 1938. But what transforms it as a composition and a performance is what Louis called Tonation and Phrasing— which I translate as musicians achieving vocalized sounds through their instruments, singing with deep feeling, becoming a wordless choir.
The Jonathan Doyle Swingtet (for this set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, Jonathan, tenor saxophone and arrangement; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Kris Tokarski, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Hal Smith, drums) sang their pure and impure songs to us, to the heavens, and for the musicians present, past, and future. . . . secular hymns that elated us.
I’m sure some listeners will say, “Oh, that’s just a blues.” Too bad for them, say I. Blessings on these musicians, on Mark and Valerie Jansen of the Redwood Coast Music Festival (hint: May 7-10, 2020!) on Johnny Hodges and Duke Ellington, all of whom make holy music and make holy music possible.
I think I first took notice of Jonathan Doyle — clarinetist, tenor saxophonist, later bass saxophonist, composer, arranger — when he was a member of the Thrift Set Orchestra some six years ago, then working with Hal Smith, leading his own groups, in combos with Ray Skjelbred, part of the Fat Babies, with Hal’s Swing Central, and more than I am no doubt leaving out. By the time I met him in person, possibly at the 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest, I was already dazzled.
What Jonathan has and shares with us is a special emotional-spiritual energy, as if he’s connected to electric current, no matter how lazy the tempo might be. I’ve never seen him coast or fall back on formula: he is fully present and fully engaged. I offered these two splendid performances by his Swingtet at the Redwood Coast Music Festival (with Jacob Zimmerman, Charlie Halloran, Kris Tokarski, Jamey Cummins, Steve Pikal, Hal Smith) hereand they deserved all the enthusiastic prose I could write and all the accolades from audience members. A day later at the RCMF, Jonathan assembled a slightly different Swingtet: Gordon Au, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Sam Rocha, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Jamey Cummins, Alex Belhaj, guitars.
I love this music dearly.
First, Jonathan’s original A SYBARITE’S DREAM, featuring Gordon, musing and soaring, in the fashion of an Ellington mood-piece but purely Doyle:
Then, an utterly captivating romp on Benny Carter’s KRAZY KAPERS, inspired by the 1933 Chocolate Dandies recording — a line on DIGA DIGA DOO. Watch Gordon’s face as Jonathan solos: it tells you all you need to know. And if you’d been sitting near me, you would have seen my even more dramatic look of astonished delight as Jonathan announced the song . . . as if I’d been given a lovely present. I haven’t changed my mind at all since then:
Such remarkable passion, allied to an irresistible swing. Bless Jonathan and his musicians, and Mark and Valerie Jansen for creating such a splendid space for beauties. (The 2020 Redwood Coast Music Festival will be next May 7-10, and it will be a doozy, a honey, or a blast: you pick. I think it will be all three.)
It’s lovely to have heroes, and the man in the photograph is one of mine. The only problem with the photograph is that it’s a still picture, and he is rarely still, but the videos below will remedy that.
When I was fortunate enough to chat with clarinetist Frank Chace on the telephone (now more than twenty years ago), he remembered that he and Marty Grosz had listened, rapt, over and over, to Pee Wee Russell’s solo on SWEET SUE with the Muggsy Spanier Ragtimers on Commodore. Marty’s comment was, “Well, if that doesn’t scrape the clouds . . . !” which is as good a summation of what artistic bliss feels like.
Those words kept coming back to me all through my weekend immersion in joy at the Redwood Coast Music Festival: I listened, quite amazed, at the wonderful music I was privileged to hear. I’m still in a state of blissful amazement: feelings shared by those around me.
One of the reasons for this unearthly happiness has to do with reedman / composer / arranger / imaginative-phenomenon Jonathan Doyle, a rare source of renewable energy in our time. Here‘s where you can find him on Facebook as well. Spiritual electricities course through him without harming him or us, and they come out as the most beautiful surprising patterns of notes, tones, and rests. He never coasts; he never parodies anyone or himself.
Jonathan was a stimulating presence all through the weekend: with Charlie Halloran’s Calypsonians, leading several sets of his own and with Jacob Zimmerman (one a Walter Donaldson tribute with Doyle on bass sax), as lead horn in Hal Smith’s Swing Central, with the extravagant Western Swing Party co-led by Hal and Dave Stuckey. (He was also one-third of the double tribute to composer-players Gordon Au and Josh Collazo, but by that time I had collapsed as if I’d been made of damp cardboard. I’ll do better next year, I hope.)
Here are four uplifting performances from the first set of Jonathan’s Swingtet, a glorious affair consisting of Doyle, Jacob Zimmerman, alto; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Kris Tokarski, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Hal Smith, drums.
BLUE DRAG (a nod to 1934 Django):
CHICAGO (he’ll show you around!):
THE FED HOP (Jonathan’s irresistible original):
DICKIE’S DREAM (Basie 1939, anyone? Because of sudden battery demise, I lost the first ensemble chorus and Charlie Halloran’s delicious solo, but what remains is very satisfying):
When you’re through admiring the solo work and the overall joyous bounce of these four performances, I urge you to listen again to Jonathan’s arrangements, their sweet surprises, their dynamics and voicings. He’s not just a great player and composer: he’s a wonderful orchestral visionary who makes his dreams and ours come true in swing.
Some children get upset if the green beans and mashed potato on their plate are touching. Some listeners separate “their” music into schools and styles, existing in the same space but kept at a safe distance. I just read a review of a festival where the writer delineated “trad” and “not trad at all,” which to me is a shame. Musicians know that they can play any repertoire in inventive ways, move in and out of rigidly defined “traditions” and create lasting satisfying art.
Here’s a shining example, the ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND(that’s the cover of their debut CD above). I’ve posted music from another performance here. To me, their joyous essence is a mixing of “genres”: soloists who know Blakeney, Darnell Howard, Don Ewell, but who are also aware of Buck Clayton, Ed Hall, Vic Dickenson, Steve Jordan, Walter Page, and Jo Jones. The secret is a flowing 4/4 — music for dancing as well as listening.
This most excellent small band is devoted to the music of Kid Ory in his later decades, led by drummer / scholar Hal Smith, and including Charlie Halloran, trombone, Ben Polcer, trumpet / vocal; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano, Alex Belhaj, guitar, Josh Gouzy, string bass. The set presented here was recorded on November 25, 2018, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.
. . . .and study war no more:
A problem with transporting a precious substance:
Hey, Dad — you coming back?
Some early Ellington with a debt to Joe Oliver:
“Honey, are you free on Monday?”:
Gus Mueller, if I recall, said decades after the fact that the title had no hidden meaning — they just liked the sound:
This one always comes in handy:
A song for parents of newborns or anyone embracing transformations:
For further announcements and more good news, visit here. I’m pleased to say I will see them three times in 2019: the Redwood Coast Music Festival, the Evergreen Jazz Festival, and the San Diego Jazz Fest. You come, too.
We didn’t miss the Saturday dance, I assure you. And they crowded the floor.
The event I’m referring to took place at the 39th annual San Diego Jazz Fest — a Saturday-night swing dance featuring Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenadersand Laura Windley, sharing the bill with the Mad Hat Hucksters. I could only stay for Michael’s opening set, but the music I captured was honey to my ears. And you’ll see many happy dancers too.
The Rhythm Serenaders were a mix of local talent and gifted people from New Orleans: Michael on string bass; Kris Tokarski, piano; Jonathan Stout, guitar; Josh Collazo, drums; Joe Goldberg, clarinet and tenor; Nate Ketner, alto and clarinet; Corey Gemme, cornet; Charlie Halloran; trombone; Laura Windley, vocals. Did they rock! And you’ll notice the delightfully unhackneyed repertoire: this is not a group with a narrow range: no IN THE MOOD here.
An incomplete PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (the late start is my doing: at swing dances I have a hard time finding a good place for camera and tripod, and at this one the music was so good that I decided to take the risk of being intrusive and set my tripod on the stage, right behind Kris at the piano. The dancers didn’t notice, or if they did, no one came over to object. Later on, I was able to achieve a pleasing split-screen effect.):
Laura sings IF DREAMS COME TRUE, and they do:
Rex Stewart’s ‘T’AIN’T LIKE THAT:
Laura’s homage to Teddy Grace, the charming I’VE TAKEN A FANCY TO YOU:
Laura’s warning, courtesy of Kay Starr: DON’T MEDDLE IN MY MOOD:
The Henderson COMIN’ AND GOIN’:
Sid Phillips’ MAN ABOUT TOWN:
Chu Berry’s MAELSTROM:
For Billie and Lester, Laura’s HE AIN’T GOT RHYTHM:
and the classic swing tune (Carmen Lombardo, don’t you know) COQUETTE:
Find Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders on Facebook here.
Official Jazz history, which tends to compress and simplify, has often portrayed Edward “Kid” Ory as both a limited trombonist and a man lodged in the earliest decades of the music. Both of these suppositions are wrong; as far as the first, ask any trombonist how easy it is to play what Ory played, and for the second, Ory’s later groups played for dancers in the Forties and Fifties and thus he was very much aware of the subtleties of the Swing Era-and-beyond four-four rhythmic pulse, as his later recordings show. Drummer / scholar Hal Smith’s ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND takes its name from a club Ory ran in California, and its musical inspiration from those later performances.
Unlike some quite respected traditional jazz bands, the OTL floats rather than pounds, and its horn soloists clearly enjoy the freedom of playing with and among such gliding pulsations. It’s their secret, one that perceptive listeners enjoy, even if they are not aware of the swinging feel of the group. At times, they remind me happily of the ad hoc groups of Swing Era veterans recruited to perform “Dixieland” tunes c. 1959-60: think of Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson, and Buster Bailey over a grooving rhythm section — playing the opening ensembles correctly and respectfully but going for themselves in solos.
In addition to Hal, the band as it performed at the 39th San Diego jazz Fest featured Charlie Halloran, trombone, Ben Polcer, trumpet, Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano, Alex Belhaj, guitar, Josh Gouzy, string bass. These selections come from a set the band did on November 24, 2018.
AT A GEORGIA CAMP MEETING:
TISHOMINGO BLUES, with a vocal by Ben:
Joe Oliver’s SNAG IT:
SAN, named for a King:
DUSTY RAG, a feature for Kris, Josh, and Hal — reimagining classic ragtime in New Orleans — that means Morton — style:
SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL:
HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?:
HIGH SOCIETY / WITHOUT YOU FOR AN INSPIRATION:
What a pleasure this band is. And hereis their website, as well as news of their debut CD here . And hereis my review. I approve! And the band also has the Gretchen Haugen Seal of Approval, which is not an accolade easily won.
Catch them at a gig; buy the CD. Have a good time.