Tag Archives: Chris Hopkins

WISTFUL STRENGTH: CHRIS HOPKINS at the PIANO

Say it simple: Chris Hopkins is such a fine pianist.

He is imaginative without being self-consciously “innovative”; he respects the composer’s intentions without being enslaved by the manuscript; he is both delicate and sure-footed.  The temptation, I think, is to play Eubie Blake’s MEMORIES OF YOU as eulogy or elegy even before the current world so violently changed shape, but Chris’ performance is tender and rueful without getting bogged down.  Admire his touch; his harmonies; his taste [he plays the verse, also].  And subscribe to his YouTube channel — why deprive yourself of pleasures?  It’s here, and there is space in the cyber-clubhouse for you.  Now, the music:

Chris’ “problem,” I say facetiously, is that he is also a world-class improviser on the alto saxophone, which he plays gloriously with the marvelous quartet of shape-changers called Echoes of Swing . . . you could look that up, too.  I think that, like me, you might have four bars of leisure time more than two months ago to admire his work — on CD and on YouTube — thoroughly. But of course I could be mistaken.

May your happiness increase!

REBECCA KILGORE and ECHOES OF SWING: “WINTER DAYS at SCHLOSS ELMAU”

Before writing this post, I was thinking about Rebecca (or Becky or Roo — she has many names, as appropriate to a multi-faceted personality) someone I have been listening to with awe and pleasure since 1994, perhaps beginning with I SAW STARS (Arbors).  As for Echoes of Swing, I got to hear them in person in Germany (in 2007, thanks to Manfred Selchow) and could tell them how I admired them.  It’s one of my dreams to have musicians and groups of musicians I revere play together, and the new CD is just such a dream. . . . one that you and I can hear and re-hear.

The disc also affords us a chance to adjust our perspectives, to shake off some preconceptions.  Some listeners have perched Rebecca on a sunny windowsill in the country of Light, Bright, and Sparkling. Yes, she may prefer PICK YOURSELF UP to GLOOMY SUNDAY, but for me a little darkness will suffice.  Hear her on this disc as she sails through I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM and her reputation as an antidote to darkness is intact.  But only shallow listeners will mistake optimism for shallowness: she has depths of feeling.

Echoes of Swing plus Two: Chris Hopkins, Bernd Lhotzky, Rolf Marx, Oliver Mewes, Henning Gailing, Colin T. Dawson. Photo by Katrin Horn.

Echoes of Swing has also been slightly mis-characterized, praised for their large orchestral sound (the core unit is four players, count them, four — even though on this CD they add a string bass and guitar as well as Rebecca) — as if they were somehow marvelous simply for this magic trick, and critics have heard them as successors to the John Kirby Sextet, which is both plausible and confining.  But on this CD, the players — whom I should name now: Bernd Lhotzky, piano and musical director; Colin T. Dawson, trumpet and flugelhorn; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Oliver Mewes, drums, with Henning Gailing, string bass, and (on four tracks) Rolf Marx, guitar — create such rich varied sounds inside and outside of the arrangements by Bernd and Chris that I felt as if I’d wandered into a universe scored by, let us say, Gil Evans, spacious and resonant.

Other artists have created records and CDs devoted to Winter.  And many of those jolly efforts are avalanches of fake snow from the arts-and-crafts store.  Christmas music looms, no matter how many chairs might be wedged against the studio door, or there’s LET IT SNOW, the now-troublesome BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE, or WINTER WEATHER.  Sweet, certainly, but not always true to the reality of the season, for Winter is a time for introspection as the world becomes colder and darker.  This disc, I assure you, is not a descent into Seasonal Affective Disorder, and there are a few familiar cheery songs on it, but it is not the usual forgettable fluff.

Here’s a wonderful example, the text being the 1931 WINTER WONDERLAND, where the focused purity of Rebecca’s voice balances against a complex, shifting orchestral background:

Bernd’s quirkily cheerful setting of the most famous Robert Frost poem:

Rebecca’s own witty and sweet song:

You’ll have to explore the other surprises for yourself — songs I’d never heard by Frishberg, Berlin, and Jobim, and a few poems set to music by Bernd — performances that are remarkable on the first hearing and grow more so.

The disc is dense — which is not to say difficult or off-putting — but it has levels and levels of musical and emotional pleasure.  Some discs make wonderful background music — the soundtrack for rearranging one’s spice rack — but this one has the delicious resonance of one short story after another.  It’s available in all the old familiar places.  Details here. WINTER DAYS is ambitious, heartfelt, completely rewarding.  You won’t regret it, no matter what the temperature.

May your happiness increase!

ELLINGTONIA with FRANK ROBERSCHEUTEN, AURELIE TROPEZ, ENRICO TOMASSO, CHRIS HOPKINS (October 29, 2017)

Ellington by Hirschfeld

The Frank Roberscheuten Hiptett, led by Frank on alto and tenor, did the lovely magic of honoring an ancestor and a tradition without copying the records note-for-note.  This magic took place at the Classic Jazz Concert Club in Sassenheim, in the Netherlands, on October 28, 2017, and it appeared — magically! — on YouTube this morning. I couldn’t resist, and I hope you can’t either.

The other creators are Aurelie Tropez, clarinet; Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Chris Hopkins, piano (his accompaniments especially subversive and delicious), Mark Elton, string bass; Stan Laferrière, drums. And there’s a surprise vocal trio — always a treat.

The songs they chose are familiar, yet the light of individuality shines through these performances, even when the ghosts of Ellington, Procope, Cootie, Nance, Hodges, Gonsalves, are visiting.

Thank you for being, dear players and singers.

May your happiness increase!

“DANCING” WITH THE STARS — a/k/a ECHOES OF SWING: COLIN T. DAWSON, CHRIS HOPKINS, BERND LHOTZKY, OLIVER MEWES

 

ECHOES OF SWING

The wonderful quartet ECHOES OF SWING is often compared to the John Kirby Sextet, and with some justification.  They both create intricate lines; they turn corners adeptly at top speed; they like surprises; they often play with classical themes.  But I need to write a heresy here.  Stand back.

I think ECHOES OF SWING has well and truly outstripped its ancestor: they are satisfying in ways the Kirby group couldn’t have imagined.  There!  I’ve said it.

This quartet can be energized up to 11, but they are also capable of great yearning, quiet serenities.  And they like the groove (not even the slowest track drags) but don’t get stuck in it — each track has small jubilant surprises in it, and the CD never feels like an hour of the same thing, a salad that’s really a huge bowl of Swiss chard.

The four heroes at work are Colin T. Dawson, trumpet / vocal; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Oliver Mewes, drums.  Chris, Colin, and Bernd have also contributed originals and arrangements.

And they have a new CD — called DANCING, appropriately.

Rarely do I quote from other people’s liner notes . . . but these tell the tale —

‘…a waltz through the history of jazz, an anthology which takes a wry look at the theme of dance in jazz, occasionally heading off at a tangent, and making some very surprising connections. It begins at the very beginning with Johann Sebastian Bach. A Gavotte from the English suite No. 6, a baroque dance, is transformed into a melodic platform for an effervescent drum feature. A journey through James P. Johnson’s ‘Charleston’ (‘straightened out’ into a modern jazz waltz), Scott Joplin’s ‘Ragtime Dance’, Cole Porter’s ‘Dream Dancing’, or Sidney Bechet’s ‘Premier Bal’ to Pixinguinha’s Brasilian Choro ‘Diplomata’, Bernd Lhotzky’s Cuban Bolero ‘Salir a la Luz’ or the exotic Ellington-like timbre of ‘Ballet Of The Dunes’ from Chris Hopkins. This is dance in jazz, but not as we know it. For a start, a third of the tracks are original compositions, and all of the remaining tunes have been not so much arranged, but more like given a complete and thorough overhaul. The older selections now possess a new ‘hipness’ and have been brought stylistically right up to the present day. This album presents the winning combination of flawless musicianship, a comprehensive knowledge of music history, good taste and judgement, and a sly sense of humour. Each of the tracks of “Dancing” communicates simultaneously and directly with the brain, the emotions and down to your feet. There is quite simply a very wide range of delights for the listener to enjoy.’

A few words more.  When I listen to EOS, I am always amazed by two things at once: the band’s nifty and expansive ensemble work, polished but not stiff.  It’s clear they rehearse, but rehearsal has not stifled their essential joyful spirits. And then there are the soloists.  If you don’t follow the band, the names of the four musicians may be slightly new to you, but they are sterling: Oliver is one of the finest drummers playing today — not an antiquarian, but a swinger who is so aware of the rollicking obligation to keep the other players afloat and make beautiful sounds.  Bernd is a lyrical hot expert orchestral player, but even when he plays one note, it has a splendid epigrammatic shape.  Colin is not only a fine hot trumpeter, lyrical or edgy as needed, but also a very warm persuasive singer, who moves us in his first eight bars.  And when Chris plays, I sense Benny Carter, Pete Brown, and Rudy Williams grinning: his sweet-tart tone, his blazing attack, his innate rhythmic energies are all memorable.

As a postscript, I have to apologize to the four gentlemen of EOS for taking so long to bring this disc to my readers’ attention.  I loved it instantly; I have played it two dozen times . . . but I was intimidated by its glowing vibrant variety. “What can I say about this except BUY IT NOW?”  But now’s the time.  It’s glorious. Here is the EOS CD page, and the Echoes Of Swing Facebook page. You can find the disc through iTunes and in all the old familiar places.

A working jazz band, these days, is a true marvel.  Echoes of Swing is a marvel well beyond that.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN IT’S APRIL IN WESTOVERLEDINGEN, GOOD SOUNDS HAPPEN (April 8-10, 2016)

Westoverledingen

Westoverledingen, Germany, a city with an imposing name, is not known worldwide as the cradle of jazz, but memorable music has been created there for the past thirty years and more by Manfred Selchow.  Manfred doesn’t play an instrument, but I feel secure in writing that he has done more for jazz than many people who do play.

I first encountered Manfred, or Mannie, as people call him, as a jazz scholar, because of his splendid documentation of clarinetist Edmond Hall’s life, performances, and recordings in a substantial book, PROFOUNDLY BLUE. Then he did the same thing for another hero of mine, trombonist Vic Dickenson, in a book he called, properly DING! DING!.

But Manfred likes the real thing, created on the spot, as much as he adores recordings — so he has invented and produced concert tours and festivals of some of the greatest musicians of this era.  (Many of his concerts have been recorded and the results issued on the Nagel-Heyer label.)

I first met Manfred and his wife Renate in 2007, when I also had the distinctive pleasure of encountering Menno Daams, Frank Roberscheuten, Colin T. Dawson, Oliver Mewes, Chris Hopkins, Shaunette Hildabrand, Bernd Lhotzky, and others.  At the time I didn’t have a blog or a video camera, so perhaps I only documented those evenings for the much-missed The Mississippi Rag.  

Jazz im Rathaus

Here’s a wonderful example of what takes place under Mannie’s amiable direction — a 1992 romp by Marty Grosz, Peter Ecklund, Dick Meldonian, Keith Ingham, Bob Haggart, Chuck Riggs (video by Helge Lorenz):

and more recently, a 2013 session with Menno Daams, Nicki Parrott, Bert Boeren, Antti Sarpila, Engelbert Wrobel, Joep Peeters, Chris Hopkins, Helge Lorenz, Jan Lorenz:

And since I gather that “Jazz im Rathaus” means roughly “Jazz at the Town Hall,” the shades of Louis and Eddie Condon are properly approving.

Now, for April 2016!  Consider the listings below:

Friday, April 8, 2016 – 8:00 – 10: 30 p.m.

Swingin’ Ladies + 2
Jazzfestival
(with Engelbert Wrobel, reeds; Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass / vocal)
Rathaus Ihrhove
Bahnhofstraße
26810-Westoverledingen
Germany

Saturday, April 9, 2016 – 8:00 – midnight.

Jazzfestival “Jam Session Night”
(with Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Bert Boeren, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Niels Unbehagen, piano; Nico Gastreich, bass; Moritz Gastreich, Bernard Flegar, drums)

Set One: “We Called It Music”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich (leader), Moritz Gastreich.

Set Two: “Around Broadway”: Engelbert Wrobel (leader), Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Nicki Parrott, Bernard Flegar.

Set Three: “The Stardust Road”: Menno Daams (leader), Matthias Seuffert, Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Moritz Gastreich.

Set Four: “What A Wonderful World”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich, Bernard Flegar.

At the finale all the musicians join in.

same location as Friday

Sunday, April 10, 2016 – 11:00 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Jazzfestival “Jazz Frühschoppen”
(with Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrott, Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren, Matthias Seuffert, Niels Unbehagen, Nico Gastreich, Moritz Gastreich, Bernard Flegar)

Set One: “Basie Jam”: Enrico Tomasso, Bert Boeren (leader), Engelbert Wrobel, Niels Unbehagen, Stephanie Trick, Helge Lorenz, guitar; Nico Gastreich, Moritz Gastreich.

Set Two: “To Billie, Teddy, and Pres”: Menno Daams, Matthias Seuffert, Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Nicki Parrott (leader), Bernard Flegar.

Set Three: “Jazz at the Philharmonic Remembered”: Matthias Seuffert (leader) plus all of the other musicians in various combinations.

same location as Friday and Saturday

And here is another version of that information.  (And now I know what “Vorschau” means, so don’t let anyone tell you that blogging isn’t educational.)

Vorschau

I’m going.  How could I resist?  So I hope to meet some of the faithful there — even people who know of this blog — for good music and good times.

My dear friend Sir Robert Cox tells me that there are many good hotels in Papenburg and Leer only minutes away at €90 – €100/night ($100-110) with breakfast.

For more information, use the phone number on the bottom of the program:

(0049) 04955 933225. (Mainly German speaking, possibly some English)
email: helmer.alberring@westoverledingen.de

or Manfred Selchow (0049) 04955 8216. (English and German)

or Bob Cox (0044) 01634 232934. (English)
email: coxes@tesco.net

May your happiness increase!

ELEGANTLY IMAGINATIVE: ECHOES OF SWING, “BLUE PEPPER”

I begin somberly . . . but there are more cheerful rewards to follow.

As the jazz audience changes, I sense that many people who “love jazz” love it most when it is neatly packed in a stylistically restrictive box of their choosing. I hear statements of position, usually in annoyed tones, about banjos, ride cymbals, Charlie Parker, purity, authenticity, and “what jazz is.”

I find this phenomenon oppressive, yet I try to understand it as an expression of taste.  One stimulus makes us vibrate; another makes us look for the exit.  Many people fall in love with an art form at a particular stage of it and their development and remain faithful to it, resisting change as an enemy.

And the most tenaciously restrictive “jazz fans” I know seem frightened of music that seems to transgress boundaries they have created .  They shrink back, appalled, as if you’d served them a pizza with olives, wood screws, mushrooms, and pencils.  They say that one group is “too swingy” or “too modern” or they say, “I can’t listen to that old stuff,” as if it were a statement of religious belief.  “Our people don’t [insert profanation here] ever.”

But some of this categorization, unfortunately, is dictated by the marketplace: if a group can tell a fairly uninformed concert promoter, “We sound like X [insert name of known and welcomed musical expression],” they might get a booking. “We incorporate everyone from Scott Joplin to Ornette Coleman and beyond,” might scare off people who like little boxes.

Certain musical expressions are sacred to me: Louis.  The Basie rhythm section. And their living evocations.  But I deeply admire musicians and groups, living in the present, that display the imaginative spirit.  These artists understand that creative improvised music playfully tends to peek around corners to see what possibilities exist in the merging of NOW and THEN and WHAT MIGHT BE.

One of the most satisfying of these playful groups is ECHOES OF SWING. Their clever title says that they are animated by wit, and this cheerful playfulness comes out in their music — not in “comedy” but in an amused ingenuity, a lightness of heart.  They have been in action since 1997, and when I saw them in person (the only time, alas) in 2007, they were wonderfully enlivening.

This action photograph by Sascha Kletzsch suggests the same thing:

EchoesOfSwingInAction1 (Foto Sascha Kletzsch, v.l. Lhotzky, Hopkins, Dawson, Mewes)

They are Colin T. Dawson, trumpet / vocal;  Chris Hopkins, alto sax; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Oliver Mewes, drums.  And they are that rarity in modern times, a working group — which means that they know their routines, and their ensemble work is beautiful, offering the best springboards into exhilarating improvisatory flights. They are also “a working group,” which means that they have gigs.  Yes, gigs!  Check out their schedule here.

Here  is a 2013 post featuring their hot rendition of DIGA DIGA DOO, and an earlier one about their previous CD, MESSAGE FROM MARS, with other videos — as well as my favorite childhood joke about a Martian in New York City here.  And while we’re in the video archives, here is a delicious eleven-minute offering from in November 2014:

and here they are on German television with a late-period Ellington blues, BLUE PEPPER:

All this is lengthy prelude to their new CD, aptly titled BLUE PEPPER:

EchoesOfSwing  - BluePepperCover

The fifteen songs on the disc are thematically connected by BLUE, but they are happily varied, with associations from Ellington to Brubeck and Nat Cole, composers including Gordon Jenkins, Rodgers, Bechet, Waller, Strayhorn — and a traditional Mexican song and several originals by members of the band: BLUE PEPPER / AZZURRO / BLUE PRELUDE / LA PALOMA AZUL / BLUE & NAUGHTY / BLUE MOON / BLACK STICK BLUES / BLUE RIVER / OUT OF THE BLUE / AOI SAMMYAKU [BLUE MOUNTAIN RANGE] / THE SMURF / BLUE GARDENIA / THE BLUE MEDICINE [RADOVAN’S REMEDY] / WILD CAT BLUES / AZURE.

What one hears immediately from this group is energy — not loud or fast unless the song needs either — a joyous leaping into the music.  Although this band is clearly well-rehearsed, there is no feeling of going through the motions. Everything is lively, precise, but it’s clear that as soloists and as an ensemble, they are happily ready to take risks. “Risks” doesn’t mean anarchy in swingtime, but it means a willingness to extend the boundaries: this group is dedicated to something more expansive than recreating already established music.

When I first heard the group (and was instantly smitten) they sounded, often, like a supercharged John Kirby group with Dizzy and Bird sitting in while at intervals the Lion shoved Al Haig off the piano stool.  I heard and liked their swinging intricacies, but now they seem even more adventurous.  And where some of the most endearing CDs can’t be listened to in one sitting because they offer seventy-five minutes of the same thing, this CD is alive, never boring.

A word about the four musicians.  Oliver Mewes loves the light-footed swing of Tough and Catlett, and he is a sly man with a rimshot in just the right place, but he isn’t tied hand and foot by the past.  Bernd Lhotzky is a divine solo pianist (he never rushes or drags) with a beautiful lucent orchestral conception, but he is also someone who is invaluable in an ensemble, providing with Oliver an oceanic swing that fifteen pieces could rest on.  I never listen to this group and say, “Oh, they would be so much better with a rhythm guitar or a string bassist.”

And the front line is just as eloquent.  Colin T. Dawson is a hot trumpet player with a searing edge to his phrases, but he knows where each note should land for the collective elegance of the group — and he’s a sweetly wooing singer in addition.  Chris Hopkins (quiet in person) is a blazing marvel on the alto saxophone — inventive and lyrical and unstoppable — in much the same way he plays the piano.

And here is what my wise friend Dave Gelly wrote: It’s hard to believe at first that there are only four instruments here. The arrangements are so ingenious, and the playing so nimble, that it could be at least twice that number. But listen closely and you will discover just a quartet of trumpet, alto saxophone, piano and drums – with absolutely no electronic tricks. The style is sophisticated small-band swing, the material a judicious mixture of originals and swing-era numbers and there is not a hint of whiskery nostalgia in any of it. It’s about time this idiom received some fresh attention and here’s the perfect curtain-raiser.

Here is their Facebook page, and their website.

We are fortunate that they exist and that they keep bringing us joyous surprises.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN FOUR MUSICIANS MAKE A BRILLIANTLY VERSATILE ORCHESTRA

The four musicians are Colin T. Dawson, trumpet; Chris Hopkins, alto saxophone; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Oliver Mewes, drums: “ECHOES OF SWING,” caught here live performing DIGA DIGA DOO that segues into the Benny Carter variant KRAZY KAPERS with a percussive detour into SING SING SING territories:

Chris Hopkins tells me that this video “was from a big concert in Erlangen, Germany, on October 21, 2013. Colin filmed it himself (for the first time) with 3 cameras and is crazy about learning all the video stuff at the moment. He’s having fun digging into it. You find a picture of the hall on the Echoes Of Swing Facebook page.”

This wonderful quartet also has a new CD, called BLUE PEPPER . . . details to come soon.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN SWING BECOMES BLISS: ADVENTURES WITH ENGELBERT WROBEL and FRIENDS

EngelSax2010

The man smiling at you might not be a familiar sight, but he is a superb reed player named Engelbert Wrobel.  (Ask Dan Barrett about this master of the saxophones and clarinet).  Wrobel is a splendidly swinging player on his own — who also puts together irreplaceably gratifying jazz ensembles.

Before we proceed, how about some evidence?  Here’s LADY BE GOOD — performed a few years ago by Engelbert, clarinet, tenor; Chris Hopkins, piano; Rolf Marx, guitar; Henning Gailing, string bass; Oliver Mewes, drums — with reed guests Antti Sarpila and Frank Roberscheuten.  Thus, THE THREE TENORS OF SWING:

Evocative without being an exact copy — except when the frontline launches into a delightful reading of Lester’s 1936 solo, something I look forward to.

3_tenors_nahga

This group has made one recording for its own Click label (which delightfully duplicates the black-and-white splendor of a 1938 Brunswick 78 label — we care about such things!) and a new one is just out — THE THREE TENORS OF SWING ON STAGE, recorded at two concerts in 2011.  (In the photograph on the left, it’s Antti Sarpila on the left, Frank Roberscheuten in the center, and Engelbert on the right.)

The sound on the CD is wonderful, the musicians delightfully inspired, and the repertoire varied.  I was listening to it for the first time this afternoon, and when the disc was about halfway through, I stopped it, and said to myself, “I have to write about this right now.  It is so good.”  It features Antti Sarpilla, Frank Roberscheuten, and Engelbert on reeds, with a rhythm section of Rolf Marx, guitar; Chris Hopkins, piano; Henning Gailing, string bass; Oliver Mewes, drums.

Three_Tenors_on_Stage__2_

The songs will say a great deal about the variety and range of this group, evoking (but not copying) Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Benny Goodman small groups, the Ellington reed section, the Basie band, Bob Crosby’s Bobcats and more: BEAN STALKING / SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT / BLACK AND TAN FANTASY / THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE / ANTTIBERT WROPILLA / JUBILEE STOMP / LA VIE EN ROSE / SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE / LESTER’S BOUNCE / SIX CATS AND A PRINCE / THE MOOCHE / I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART / TILL TOM SPECIAL / MISTY MORNING / WEBSTERITY.

I expected a smooth — but not slick — ensemble sound, with a swinging rhythm section, and I wasn’t disappointed.  What was even better was the writing: not just three horns playing in harmony or in unison, but clever arrangements that made this septet sound full and rich.  And although the repertoire (except for four original compositions) predates 1945, there isn’t the slightest hint of “repertory” stuffiness.  One track seems even more fresh and creative than the last, and it’s amazing that this was recorded in concert, with the energy built in to that situation.  It’s the kind of CD about which I say, “I want to go hear that again right now.”  You will, too.

My involvement with the second CD — featuring the International Hot Jazz Quartet (Engelbert, Duke Heitger, trumpet / vocal; Paolo Alderighi, piano; Bernard Flegar) is more personal.  I had heard, replayed, and much admired the first effort by this group — with Mewes on drums — on the Arbors label.

Some readers may know that I write liner notes for jazz compact discs.  But since my range is admittedly (or proudly) narrow, I don’t get asked to write about music outside my pleasure zone . . . and I won’t write about something I don’t like.

I read on Facebook that Engelbert had completed this disc and, perhaps coyly, sent him a message, “Do you need liner notes for this CD?”  Happily, the answer was yes . . . and the music is even happier.  Here are pictures of the covers and you can, I hope, read what I wrote — with no artificial ingredients.

still havin´ cover 200

Inside . . .

still havin´2

And . . . .

still havin´3

And . . . .

Still havin´4

Finally . . . .

still havin´back 200

Now you have it all — all except the music contained within, which is a thorough pleasure.  (I don’t know why the four members are photographed at school desks — they surely have graduated from any institutions of higher swing learning.  But no matter.)

To purchase this CD or others with Engelbert and friends, visit here.  You’ll be lifted into bliss — or your money back.

May your happiness increase!

AN ELEGANT RECITAL: “PARTNERS IN CRIME” by CHRIS HOPKINS and BERND LHOTZKY

PARTNERS IN CRIME cover

Don’t let the title upset you: there are no victims here.  And the mournful basset hounds are misleading: this isn’t morose music.  It is a two-piano recital by the sterling players Hopkins and Lhotzky.  And it’s almost an hour of absolutely gorgeous music.  What distinguishes this from other discs in the idiom is something rare and irreplaceable.  Taste.

Chris and Bernd are not only astonishing technicians who can scamper all over the keyboard and make joyous noise.  But they are wise artists who know that a rich diet of auditory fireworks soon palls.

(How many people, listening to a gifted player “show off” — a stride pianist play at dazzling speed, a horn player careen around in the upper register — have thought, “That’s really impressive.  Could you stop doing it now — we’re all convinced that you can!”  I know these radical thoughts have entered my mind more than once, and I suspect I am not alone.)

Although they are harmonically sophisticated musicians, Bernd and Chris know that melody and variety are essential.  “Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mr. Morton, and he hasn’t been proven wrong.

So this disc doesn’t wallop us with pyrotechnics — there is a James P. piece, JINGLES — but it roams around happily in the land of Medium Tempo with delicacy and precision.  It isn’t Easy Listening or music to snooze by, but no crimes are committed against Beauty here.  What’s more, these players have understood how to plan a concert — even when the imagined audience may be driving or doing the dishes — so there is never too much of any one approach or style.  The disc begins with the Ellington-Strayhorn TONK (which, once again reminds me of Gershwin in Paris and Raymond Scott in his studio), then moves to a lacy reading of Fud Livingston’s IMAGINATION, Arthur Schutt’s GEORGIA JUBILEE, Thornhill’s SNOWFALL, I GOT PLENTY O’NUTTIN’, the aforementioned JINGLES (a masterpiece at a less-than-frenzied tempo but swinging hard), a lovely Hopkins solo rendition of SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, Bernd’s SALIR A LA LUZ (dedicated to Isabel Lhotzky, the Lion’s SNEAKAWAY as a solo for Bernd, Bernd’s FIVE 4 ELISE (whimsically based on FUR ELISE), Chris’ PARTNERS IN CRIME, DOIN’ THE VOOM VOOM, RUSSIAN LULLABY, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (for Mr. Waller), and  Nazareth’s APANHEI-TE CARAQUINHO.

Discerning readers will note the absence of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ and other songs that have been played many times in the last ninety-plus years, but this disc isn’t devoted to the esoteric for its own sake.  Each of the songs has a strong melodic line: the listener never gets bored, for even the most familiar one here — say, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME — is handled with great tenderness, elegance, and a spacious intelligence, as if the players already knew what cliches and formulaic turns of phrase were possible, and had discarded them in favor of a loving, deep simplicity.  Even their 5 / 4 version of FUR ELISE is delicately hilarious.

And — as an added bonus — the disc is beautifully recorded in the old-fashioned way: two Steinway pianos and one pair of Sennheiser omni-directional microphones.  It’s music for the ears, the heart, and the mind — and (without meaning any acrimony here) the disc is a quiet rebuke to pianists who pound their way through the same tired repertoire and record producers who make it sound artificial.

It’s a beauty, and it celebrates Beauty.

You can buy the disc here.  Or hear samples of Amazonian mp3s here.  Or the EyeTunes version here.

May your happiness increase.

CHRIS HOPKINS PRESENTS DAN BARRETT’S INTERNATIONAL SWING PARTY 2010 (FEATURING BUTCH MILES)

I wasn’t there.  I wish I had been.  But the good news is that two compact discs from this band’s German tour have been issued on the Echoes of Swing label (EOSP 4058 / 4059, available separately) and they come in the ear like honey.  Hot honey, if you must know: a really delicious sensation.

The gracious swingsters on these discs are Duke Heitger, trumpet /  vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone, head arrangements, vocal; Dan Block, clarinet, alto, tenor; Engelbert Wroebel, clarinet, soprano, tenor; Chris Hopkins, piano; Eddie Erickson, guitar, banjo, vocal; Nicki Parrott, string bass, vocal; Butch Miles, drums; Bernard Flegar, drums (on two tracks).  The material comes from March 2010, and each CD has expansive notes by Dan Barrett.  This tour was the idea of the very knowing and generous jazz fan / collector / scholar / promoter Manfred Selchow, who has written two splendid books on his heroes Edmond Hall and Vic Dickenson (PROFOUNDLY BLUE and DING DING! respectively) so you know he has good taste in musicians and bands.

Volume One begins with a string of “old favorites” played with snap and crackle — not to ignore pop: INDIANA and SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, followed by BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, with echoes of Louis and Eddie Condon and the Hampton Victors, then Eddie convinces he us he is behaving well on KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW. The reed players and rhythm make us forget that TEA FOR TWO is ninety years old, and Nicki purrs her way through LET’S DO IT (with some nifty new lyrics as well).  A rhythm section feature, MONTEVIDEO, is both startling and supple, evoking a late Ellington trio — and then everyone evokes a compact powerful version of the Forties Basie band with THE KING.  But wait!  There’s more.  A nice long blues, BOCHUM ELECTRICTY BLUES, and a sweet Duke vocal / trumpet performance of DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? (which he does).

Volume Two opens with the bright NEAL’S DEAL (a Neal Hefti line for the 1951 Count Basie Sextet), then moves back nearly thirty years for GEORGIA JUBILEE, a memory of a pre-King-of-Swing record date led by Benny, with Coleman Hawkins on the tenor, and the Sidney Bechet WASTE NO TEARS featuring Block and Wroebel.  Dan Barrett sings and swings mightily on the Lionel Hampton classic WHOA BABE, and then Nicki asks the troubling question in swing, IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T MY BABY.  (We is, Nicki.  We can’t help it nohow.)   An extraordinary, jumping version of Earl Hines’ CAVERNISM follows, then Eddie woos the crowd, which he does so well, with ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, a sweet love song written by the unheralded member of the Great American Songbook fraternity, Jabbo Smith.  WITH ‘EM, Dan Barrett’s clever, hot, boppish take on I GOT RHYTHM, keeps the imagined dancers hopping, leading into a sleekly intense ONE O’CLOCK JUMP.  Another delightful version of MONTEVIDEO follows — remarkable improvisations on the theme — and a tender IF I HAD YOU, before the disc romps home with SWEET SUE and HINDUSTAN.

If you know the players and singers here, you won’t have to be convinced of the quality of the music on these discs.  But these performances are sharply executed when the music calls for it (this band isn’t ashamed of rehearsing) and loose, fervent, courageous when it’s time for jamming.  These are live performances, so you can hear the good humor and delight in the various rooms — and the sound is fine, too.

My only problem is that I file my CDs alphabetically according to the leader or the musician / singer I gravitate towards.  I can’t be fair to anyone by putting these CDs under B for Barrett or H for Hopkins.  It seems I have to buy multiple copies to satisfy my ethical self.  You might not be burdened by such demands, but you will be delighted by every note on both discs.

To buy your very own discs, visit here.  Or if you are less patient and need it digitally whooshed to your computer, click party

May your happiness increase.

FOR ROY: ECHOES OF SWING and FRIENDS at ASCONA

I’ve just been delighted by the Echoes of Swing disc called MESSAGE FROM MARS — the players are Chris Hopkins, alto; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; Colin T. Dawson, trumpet; Oliver Mewes, drums.  Here’s the EOS as part of a wonderful ensemble paying tribute to David Roy Eldridge, the man who created exciting jazz wherever he played. 

The colleagues here are tenorist Frank Roberscheuten, guitarist Eddie Erickson, trombonist Dan Barrett, bassist Joel Forbes  — and they romp through an unnamed line on the chord changes of IDAHO that I associate with Roy’s time with Coleman Hawkins: BEAN STALKING.  Thanks to Ned Newitt for the identification.  And the band is pure joy:

“MESSAGE FROM MARS”

No, the aliens haven’t landed.  And this isn’t a detour into NASA’s territory or a nostalgic trip back to the Mickey Mouse Club (although I haven’t been able to get one ancient “The Martians come to New York” joke out of my head*).

MESSAGE FROM MARS is the name of a splendid new disc by Echoes of Swing, a world-class band that lives up to its name and more.  While retaining its essential identity — flexible and convincing — this quartet can sound like a much larger unit, and the disc is characterized by a delightful variety in mood, tempo, and approach.  The players are superb chameleons who remain true to themselves: Chris Hopkins (himself a superb pianist) on alto sax; Colin T. Dawson on trumpet and vocal; Bernd Lhotzky on piano; Oliver Mewes on drums.

Each of those musicians savors the past and does it personal homage: Mewes suggests Catlett and Jones; Lhotzky celebrates Waller and Nat Cole; Dawson evokes Eldridge and Emmett Berry; Hopkins summons up Pete Brown and Carter.  But this isn’t a repertory effort: the music produced here is both profound and hilariously flightly, skittering from surprise to surprise.

On the surface, Echoes of Swing might sound like a John Kirby Sextet spin-off, with tightly voiced ensembles and an affection for “jazzing the classics.”  But they avoid the potential claustrophobia of these categories by being very eager to play hooky: you’ll hear echoes of many other styles and hints of other approaches, all fused delightfully into something both nostalgic and startling.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are Echoes of Swing performing James P. Johnson’s SWINGA-DILLA STREET (recorded only by Fats Waller and his Rhythm before this):

And here’s a Lhotzky original, HIS HONOUR AND THE VERMIN (FLEAS IN MY WIG):

MESSAGE FROM MARS offers a deliciously subtle and witty tasting menu of music — a disc you could listen to all the way through without the slightest hint of monotony; at the same time, you could savor each of the sixteen miniatures for its own surprises without ever getting tired.  There I saw this group for the first and only time in Germany in 2007, thanks to Manfred Selchow, and found them exciting and deep: the disc captures their subtleties and drive wholly.  It’s beautifully recorded and (as a bonus) has expansive notes by our own Dan Barrett.

The songs are SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT /  MESSAGE FROM MARS (groovy and futuristic by Sid Phillips) / THE GHOST OF MARSDEN GHETTO (an atmospheric piece by Colin T. Dawson) / DON’T EXPLAIN / BUTTERFLY CHASE (Lhotzky-Chopin) / THE GOON DRAG (Sammy Price) / DELIRIUM (Arthur Schutt) / HIS HONOUR AND THE VERMIN / MOONLIGHT FIESTA (also known as PORTO RICAN CHAOS) / LIEBESLIED (Kreisler) / TWILIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS (by Chris) / DON’T SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR A RAINY DAY (an obscure Harold Spina pop tune) / ODEON (Ernesto Julio Nazareth) / BUGHOUSE (Red Norvo – Teddy Wilson) / SPRING IS HERE / GAVOTTE (Shostakovich).

Here’s what Scott Hamilton said about this band:

I’ve been listening to these guys for a few years now, and they’re always full of surprises.  This CD is their best yet.  They all have a deep understanding of the literature, and they play from inside.  How they do it all with four instruments is beyond me.

But fortunately the CD isn’t beyond our reach: visit http://www.EchoesofSwing.com. for more information.

[*The Martians land in New York.  They’re friendly interstellar tourists who want to learn everything about us — to swap information and customs.  A curious New Yorker hands one of the Martians a toasted bagel to see what the alien might make of it.  The Martian, to everyone’s surprise, sniffs the bagel, inserts it into where his jaws might be, chews it a bit, and says (through simultaneous translation), ‘Mmmmm.  This would go great with cream cheese and lox.'”]

THE INSPIRING CHRIS HODGKINS

Meet the versatile and creative Cardiff, Wales-born trumpeter Chris Hodgkins.  

His music answers questions: how to make art new without abandoning the tradition; how to have one’s own voice while honoring your ancestors and colleagues. 

I first heard about Chris through the magic of Google Alerts — because someone had compared him to Ruby Braff, which is my idea of an accolade.  Then I found out that he and his musical friends had created three compact discs, PRESENT CONTINUNOUS, FUTURE CONTINUOUS, and BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL:

Just so know what the musicians look like should you encounter them on the street: to the left is bassist Alison Rayner; to the right of Chris is guitarist Max Brittain.  Click here to hear Alison Rayner’s QUEER BIRD, from PRESENT CONTINUOUS:

http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/album1.asp

And here’s Alison’s SWEET WILLIAM, from FUTURE CONTINUOUS:

http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/album2.asp

Click here to hear THE MACHINE, from BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL (where alto saxophonist Diane McLoughlin joins Chris, Alison, and Max):

http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/album3.asp

You’ll hear that his music is, on one hand, rooted in a Mainstream tradition: I hear Braff, Lyttelton, Buck Clayton, echoes of Horace Silver and Blue Note recordings of the Sixties, of Henry Mancini and occasionally Strayhorn . . . in a streamlined instrumentation (a trio of trumpet, guitar, and bass on two CDs, enlarged into a quartet on the third by the addition of tenor sax).  Chris himself is a singular player; his tone ranging from the silken to the edgy, his lines winding and floating over the ringing lines of Brittain’s guitar, the deep pulse of Rayner’s string bass, and on BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL they all get along nicely with the lemony alto saxophone of McLoughlin.  By the way, Chris loves the assortment of sounds and timbres that mutes give to his horn (as well as playing open) so the three discs never sounded like more of the same.   

I get a bit nervous when confronted with CDs that are all “original” compositions — whisper this: many musicians, stalwart and true, do their best composing on the bandstand, not on manuscript paper (but don’t say it too loudly) so that I was delighted to see some Kern and McHugh, Lyttelton, an Ellington blues, YOU’RE A LUCKY GUY and IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN.  Moving a little beyond the “songbook” tradition, I noted that Chris delights in a wide variety of composers and songs: Neil Sedaka’s BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO, lines by Conte Candoli, Sahib Shihab, Thad Jones, Harry Edison.  And then there are the originals — varied and lively, in many different moods and tempos.  (How could you do anything but admire a man who titles a song SWINGING AT THE COPPER BEECH?  And if you don’t get the in-joke, I’ll explain.)

BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL is a real pleasure — and I am not speaking as a still-active professor of English, but as a jazz listener.  I admire Chris’s awareness of his emotional and spiritual roots in the literary / cultural past, and his joyful audacity.  The first track on the CD, THE MACHINE, describes a stagecoach ride taken by Boswell.  Chris’s original lines fall somewhere in between the twelve-bar blues and OLE MISS, and the sound of the band perplexed me — light, airy, yet serious — until I recalled its analogue: Buck Clayton’s Big Four for HRS in 1946: trumpet, clarinet, electric guitar, and bass (Scoville Brown, Tiny Grimes, and Sid Weiss, if I recall correctly).  What follows is not exactly program music: had I lost the liner notes explaining what each composition referred to, I would have still enjoyed the music — but knowing the artistic structure underneath made this a much-more-than-usually pleasing musical travelogue, veering here and there from updated Thirties rhythm ballads to hints of Horace Silver and Hank Mobley as well as very hip film soundtracks and Sixties pop of the highest order (AUCHINLECK).  I don’t know if I would have guessed the subtext of the winding, pensive REPENT IN LEISURE (referring to Boswell’s having caught gonorrhea), but the historical / musical connection works for me.  It is great fun to listen to the music on this disc — full of feeling, subtlety, and charm — whether reading the notes at the same time or as an after-commentary.

Chris Hodgkins is a fine trumpet player, small-group leader, and composer; he has good taste in his musical friends and in the music he chooses to play.  As a professor of mine used to say over thirty years ago, “I commend him to you.”

DEEP PASSION: MENNO DAAMS – DAVID LUKACS and FRIENDS

It’s been a wonderful day for swinging jazz — tender and hot — because I found these four performances on YouTube. 

The peerless (and under-heralded) trumpeter, arranger, composer Menno Daams has started his own YouTube channel (“menno779”) and its videos include these four delightful performances by the “Daams-Lukacs Orchestra” of jazz classics — homages to Bix, to Louis, and Duke — that are evocations rather than copies even when they seem to be hewing closely to the originals. 

The orchestra — well-rehearsed without being stiff — is composed of Menno on trumpet (and arrangements); David Lukacs on clarinet;  Ronald Jansen Heijtmajer, alto saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone;  Chris Hopkins, piano; Ton van Bergeyk, guitar; Jan Voogd – bass.  Their website is www.myspace.com/daamslukacsorchestra

For the Bixians in the audience (among whom I number myself) here is a delicate reading of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA at just the right tempo (with Chris’s feathery commentary throughout, even suggesting Fats and Teddy, approvingly) before the streamlined closing chorus:

Taking on SINGIN’ THE BLUES is just as difficult, because the 1927 recording is so much a part of our shared history, but this version is just lovely, with its own room to breathe, echoing Berigan as well as Beiderbecke (with lovely work by Ronald on alto).  That blissful chorus in the middle split between Chris and Frank sounded as if Teddy and Lester had decided to honor Bix in 1938:

SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA originally came from Don Redman but has been associated with Louis for nearly eighty years now, and for good reason.  Menno shows just how well he knows that tradition, and the band is in the groove with him.  The tiptoeing reed interlude that follows his solo suggests the Alec Wilder Octet, which is always a good thing, before Chris reminds us that Earl Hines liked this composition as well, and David has his say before a neat ensemble rocks this one to a sweet conclusion: 

And, to end this too-brief program, a subtly intense reinvention of RING DEM BELLS which suggests the great Hampton recording as well as the Ellington originals.  Catch Menno’s delighted grin at Chris’s interpolation of some Willie “the Lion” Smith in his solo.  And then the band offers us (as an encore) an on-the-spot alternate take! 

What a phenomenal small group — with a perfectly integrated subtle rhythm section as well. 

To go back to the Twenties, I’d have to say, “The way this band rocks is just too bad.”

My title comes from a Lucky Thompson line, but it fits here: you don’t learn how to play like this overnight, and you don’t do it with such skill without having a deep passion for swinging jazz as part of your essential self.

HOW I WOULD SPEND MY SUMMER VACATION . . .

If I had what W.C. Fields used to call “the spondulics,” mountains of them, (“bucks,” for the uninitiated), I’d be following these bands around Europe.  I especially pant for the Schloss Elmau Swing Festival, which collects some of the finest musicians I’ve ever seen, many of them who have not made many American tours.  To see the gorgeous hotel, click here:

SCHLOSS ELMAU Swing Festival (“The Musicians’ Party”)

 Musical director: BERND LHOTZKY  

 May 27th – June 4th, 2010

Shaunette Hildabrand (voc), Scott Hamilton (ts), George Washingmachine (vio/voc), Duke Heitger (tp), Menno Daams (tp), Chris Hopkins (p/as), Frank Roberscheuten (cl/sax), John Allred (tb), Howard Alden (g), Bernd Lhotzky (p), Joel Forbes (b), Eddie Metz (dm), Michael Keul (dm).

 27.05.10: “The Grand Opening” | 28.05.10: “Moon Songs” | 29.05.10: “Dancing on the Ceiling – A Caribbean Affair” | 30.05.10: “George Gershwin Night” | 31.05.10: “Scott Hamilton” | 01.06.10: “The Various Talents of Mr. Daams” | 02.06.10: “Frank Roberscheuten’s Hiptett” | 03.06.10: “Metzo Forte” | 04.06.10: “Vive Le Hot Club De France – A Joyful Celebration of Django Reinhardt’s 100st Birthday” |

Information and booking: Schloss Elmau, 82493 Elmau / Bavaria (Germany), Tel.: D – 08823 / 18-0.  http://www.schloss-elmau.de

Special swing festival package – 7 nights // Special short stay saver – 5 nights

ECHOES OF SWING

Colin Dawson, Chris Hopkins, Bernd Lhotzky, Oliver Mewes  >4 Jokers in the Pack – and more!<

Their recent album was awarded the “Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz” du Hot Club de France

19.04.10 (20:30), NL-5691 Son, De Zwaan, NL – 0492 / 599890  //  20.04.10 (19:30), D-51399 Burscheid, Kulturscheune Dierath, D – 02174 / 81 47  // 21.04.10 (19:30), D-46236 Bottrop, Kammermusiksaal, D – 02041 / 3 40 18  // 22.04.10 (20:00), D-33102 Paderborn, Kulturwerkstatt, D – 05251 / 3 17 85 //  23.04.10 (20:30), B-4800 Verviers, Königl. Stadttheater, B – 087 / 64 72 67  //  24.04.10 (20:00), D-48249 Dülmen, Aula des Cl.-Brentano-Gymnasiums, D – 02594 / 12400  //  25.04.10 (11:00), D-42699 Solingen, Rheinisches Industriemuseum, D – 0212 / 23 24 1-12  //  26.04.10 (20:00), D-90523 Wendelstein, Jegelscheune, D – 09129 / 90 97 87  //  27.04.10 (19:30), D-97877 Wertheim, Arkadensaal im Rathaus, D – 09342 / 219 11  //  08.05.10 (19:30), D-86911 Dießen/Ammersee, Theatersaal im Augustinum, D – 08807 / 70115  //  09.05.10 (20:00), D-85591 Vaterstetten, Rathaus, D – 089 / 90 90 11 86  //  26.05.10 (20:00), A-6840 Götzis (Voralberg), Kulturbühne Ambach, A – 05523 / 54949  //  18.06.10, D-45127 Essen, Kulturpfadfest, Lichtburg, D – 0201 / 88 45045  //  27.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  28.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-029.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  30.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  08.08.10 (11:00), D-65343 Eltville am Rhein, Schloss Reinhartshausen, D – 01805 / 74 34  //  30.09.10 (20:30), D-86156 Augsburg, Spectrum Club, D – 0821 / 257 28-28  //  01.10.10 (20:00), D-84508 Burgkirchen, Bürgerzentrum, D – 08679 / 91503-210  //  14.10.10 (19:30), D-81375 München, Theatersaal im Augustinum, D – 089 / 1893799-24  //  15.10.10 (20:00), D-82380 Peißenberg, Tiefstollenhalle, D – 08803 / 63 23 03  //  16.10.10 (20:00), D-82229 Seefeld, Schloss Seefeld, D – 08152 / 98 08 97  //  29.10.10 (20:00), D-53925 Kall, Kulturraum der KEV, D – 02441 / 82300  //  30.10.10 (20:30), D-55218 Ingelheim am Rhein, Weiterbildungszentrum, D – 06132 / 89 71 24  //  04.11.10 (20:00), D-49716 Meppen, Theater im Windthorst-Gymnasium, D – 05931 / 15 33 78  //  05.11.10 (20:30), D-26871 Papenburg, Forum Alte Werft, D – 04961 / 82337  //  06.11.10 (20:00), D-24306 Plön, Aula am Schiffsthal, D – 04522 / 8187  //  04.12.10 (20:30), D-63322 Rödermark, Jazzclub Rödermark, D – 06074 / 93200  //  06.12.10 (20:00), D-47051 Duisburg, Theater ‘Die Säule’, D – 0203 / 20125  //   

David Lukács – Menno Daams Orchestra feat. Frank Roberscheuten, Chris Hopkins a.o.

28.04.10 (20:00), NL-1018 Amsterdam, Hermitage Amsterdam, NL – 020 / 530 87 51

The THREE TENORS OF SWING feat. Antti Sarpila, Frank Roberscheuten, Engelbert Wrobel   

24.04.10 (14:00), NL-4201 Gorinchem, Jazzfestival, NL – 0183 / 62 52 58  //  25.04.10 (18:00), D-53111 Bonn, Collegium Leoninum, D – 0228 / 94 92 6-0  //  26.11.10 (20:30), D-73257 Köngen, Schloss Köngen, D – 07024 / 86730  // 

INTERNATIONAL STRIDE PIANO SUMMIT  >virtuoso classic jazz performed on two grand pianos<   

feat. Chris Hopkins, Louis Mazetier, Bernd Lhotzky & Paolo Alderighi:

10.06.10 (20:00), D-59439 Holzwickede, Wasserburg Haus Opherdicke, D – 02303 / 27 25 41   

feat. Bernd Lhotzky, Paolo Alderighi, Ehud Asherie, Chris Hopkins:

21.10.10 (20:00), D-85045 Ingolstadt, Audi Forum, D – 08431 / 4 12 33

feat. Ehud Asherie, Bernd Lhotzky, Rossano Sportiello, Chris Hopkins, Louis Mazetier, Stephanie Trick & Nicki Parrott (bass):

23.10.10 (19:00), CH-5623 Boswil (Zürich), Alte Kirche, CH – 056 / 634 31 32

24.10.10 (17:00), CH-5623 Boswil (Zürich), Alte Kirche, CH – 056 / 634 31 32

Engelbert Wrobel’s Swing Society feat. Chris Hopkins, Rolf Marx, Henning Gailing, Oliver Mewes   

04.07.10 (11:30), D-45964 Gladbeck, Mathias-Jakobs-Stadthalle, D – 02043 / 2 26 74

25.07.10 (11:00), D-53113 Bonn, Bundeskunsthalle, D – 0228 / 66 88-242

21.09.10 (20:00), D-59348 Lüdinghausen, Burg Lüdinghausen, D – 02591 / 926 176

26.09.10 (11:30), D-40764 Langenfeld (Rheinland), Stadthalle Langenfeld, D – 02173 / 794 926

05.10.10 (19:30), D-58511 Lüdenscheid, Kulturhaus Lüdenscheid, D – 02351 / 171 299

07.11.10 (19:00), D-51379 Leverkusen, Scala, D – 02171 / 76 79 59

JAZZIN’ JULY WORKHOP July 5th – 11th, 2010

NL-5595 LEENDE (Nähe Eindhoven), Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Valkenswaardweg 44

Teachers: Shaunette Hildabrand (vocal), Colin Dawson (trumpet), Dan Barrett (trombone), Frank Roberscheuten (saxophone/clarinet), Engelbert Wrobel (clarinet/saxophone), Chris Hopkins (piano/saxophone), Bernd Lhotzky (piano), Howard Alden (guitar/banjo), Karel Algoed (bass), Oliver Mewes (drums).

Information & Booking: +32-11-515326 (Frank Roberscheuten, director)   

More Info: http://www.swingcats.nl/workshop2010

Flyer-Download: JazzinJulyWorkshop2010

Chris Hopkins meets his Piano Friends: Louis Mazetier (Paris)

>virtuoso classic jazz performed on two grand pianos<

16.09.10 (19:00), D-53229 Bonn, Klavierhaus Klavins, D – 0228 / 94 92 6-0

17.09.10 (19:30), D-44869 Bochum, Kunstwerkstatt am Hellweg, D – 01805 / 00 18 12  (14 Ct./Min.)

18.09.10 (20:00), D-58332 Schwelm, Kulturfabrik Ibach-Haus, D – 02336 / 990 540

19.09.10 (16:00), D-44869 Bochum, Kunstwerkstatt am Hellweg, D – 01805 / 00 18 12  (14 Ct./Min.)

For more Information please  visit these websites.

info@hopkins.de

http://www.hopkins.de

info@EchoesOfSwing.com

http://www.EchoesOfSwing.com

ENGELBERT WROBEL’S SWING SOCIETY: 20 YEARS

Here’s a new, quite extraordinary compact disc: 

ENGELBERT WROBEL’S  SWING SOCIETY featuring Dan Barrett: 20 Years

Click Records (Recorded 11.08.09 – 12.08.09 in Bonn, Germany) 

Engelbert Wrobel – Clarinet, Soprano, and Tenor / Chris Hopkins – Piano / Rolf Marx – Guitar / Ingmar Heller – Bass /

Oliver Mewes – Drums.  Special Guest: Dan Barrett: Trombone, Cornet (Titles 1, 2, 5, 8, 10, 13)

Titles 4, 10 & 14 plus String Quartet (arranged by Dan Barrett): Nathalie Streichardt (violin), Maria Suwelack (violin), Martina Horesji (viola), Ulrike Zavelberg (cello)

 Wang Wang Blues / Blues For Ben / Pick Yourself Up / Estrellita / Long Live The King / Opus 3 /4 / Cachita / Medley: Take Me In Your Arms – And The Angels Swing / After You’ve Gone / Serenade in Blue / Tricotism / It Might As Well Be Spring / Way Down Yonder In New Orleans / Danny Boy 61:01.

Those are the facts.  What distinguishes this disc from twenty others by living jazz musicians considering many aspects of an older style?

Expertise, originality, passion, and precision for starters. 

I don’t ordinarily comment on the cover pictures of compact discs, but this one is a good guide to what’s inside.  My discerning readers will notice that it places he band, smartly dressed, with their instruments, in an older color picture.  And the blending is seamless, which isn’t a tribute to someone’s mastery of Photoshop, but an indication of how beautifully this small group melds the eternal Present and the hallowed Past.  That Past, in jazz terms, is the Benny Goodman small groups, the Keynote Records sessions created by Harry Lim, the Kansas City Six [Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Eddie Durham, freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones], the Lucky Thompson – Oscar Pettiford –  Skeeter Best trio, and more. 

But this CD isn’t a repertory exercise: the Swing Society would think it an impiety to copy recorded solos off the records.  And although the musicians in this band admire and revere Benny Goodman, Dave Tough, Sidney Catlett, Charlie Christian, Johnny Guarneri, Teddy Wilson, Vic Dickenson, Shorty Baker . . . and on.  But they don’t imitate.  The closest they come is an occasional note or gesture, beautifully executed, in a solo of their own.  So, listening to the swinging drummer Oliver Mewes, I would say, “Damn, that Chinese cymbal of his sure sounds as if he admires Dave Tough,” but you know it’s Mewes making his own delighted way upstream. 

In fact, the whole rhythm section works together in a way that would surely guarantee them a long run on Fifty-Second Street if Swing Street were still musically thriving.  Listen to their seductively nudging playing behind Barrett on TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS — at the kind of medium-tempo most bands find it hard to sustain for long.  In fact, it would be both instructive and uplifting to listen to this whole CD just for the rhythm section — their groove, their sonorities.  The padding momentum of Mewes’ brushes; the togetherness of Marx and Heller, their ringing solo lines; the just-right accompaniment and romping solos of Hopkins.

But to listen only to the rhythm section would be to ignore Barrett and Wrobel.  For me, Barrett’s name on a disc is a guarantee of swing, wit, and taste.  His trombone sound — so creatively varied — is beautifully captured here, and his trumpet playing (one of the wonders of the age, I think) is as well — although only on WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS.  When will someone get Dan into a studio with just his cornet or trumpet and a sympathetic pianist?  I’m waiting.  His string-quartet arrangements are a revelation: who knew?  And there’s the famous Barrett sly wit, as in the interpolation of A BLUES SERENADE into SERENADE IN BLUE.  Dan also contributes delightful arrangements and a tribute to Benny — LONG LIVE THE KING — that improvises on some of Mr. Goodman’s favorite chord changes. 

That fanous name brings us to the brilliant intelligence of Engelbert Wrobel, who has absorbed the whole reed-playing jazz tradition, digested it, and made it his own.  He is a marvelous player with more than enough technique, but he’s never swallowed up by his own abilities.  Many clarinetists who revere BG spend their lives tossing off one calculated phrase after another, often at a high volume and with a shrill tone.  Not Wrobel: his tone glistens, his fingers fly, but you immediately listen to the music he’s making, the beautiful phrase-shapes and how they add up to cohesive statements.  And he’s a compelling yet understated soprano player (on CACHITA), too; turning to the tenor with great effect on TRICOTISM.

The sum of these parts is a band, mellow and rich — on a compact disc that glides from one rewarding performance to another, with a few surprises along the way.  It’s a wonderful musical banquet.

To purchase it, you can visit http://www.engelbertwrobel.de/html/cdshop.html or http://www.echoes-of-swing.de/.

FLASHES of BIX / “FLASHES” for BIX

Many YouTube videos of jazz performances are exuberant hot music, nearly violent in their emotional effect. 

This tribute to Bix Beiderbecke’s early life, created by Mook Ryan, is something different.  It beautifully melds photographs of Bix’s early life with his composition FLASHES played by Chris Hopkins and Bernd Lhotzky.  And Mook’s video does what great art, deeply understood, should do.  Hearing the music and seeing the panorama, we celebrate Bix and mourn him.  Beautiful, triumphant, evocative, and sad. 

PERFECT YOUR SWING!

When Dan Barrett was in New York City — playing exquisitely — he offered me a flyer for the July 5-11, 2010, workshop detailed below.  It’s very exciting — the chance for the amateur musicians all around the world to perfect their jazz skills in the old-fashioned way, by learning from the Masters.  My instrumental skills would still need a few years of serious polishing before they would let me in the gate, but surely some of my readers would have a fine time here. 

Or it could be a splashing birthday present for the jazz savant in your household!

Jazzin’ July – workshop 2010                  

5th to 11th july 2010

 

1 week workshop, classic jazz music:

Jazzin’ July, hosted in the idyllic Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Eindhoven NL, is one of the few workshops dedicated to the instruction of classic jazz music.  For this week an international team of teachers, led by Frank Roberscheuten, has been selected based upon their excellent reputation as performers and their ability to motivate and guide students.  A main feature of the course is the focus on playing in bands which develops your knowledge and feeling for various styles such as Blues, New Orleans and Swing. In the daily lessons you will work on the optimal control of your instrument, while emphasis will be given to technique, harmony, improvisation and interpretation. Jazzin’ July is oriented toward practice and competence, aiming to prepare you for actual performance work and to give a new impulse on your personal development.

 Teachers

Howard Alden (guitar & banjo, USA) – www.howardalden.com

Karel Algoed (bass & sousaphone, B) – www.swingcats.nl

Dan Barrett (trombone, USA) – www.blueswing.com

Colin Dawson (trumpet, GB) – www.echoes-of-swing.de/dawson.htm

Shaunette Hildabrand (vocal, USA) – www.swingcats.nl

Chris Hopkins (saxophone, D) – www.hopkins.de

Bernd Lhotzky (piano, D) – www.lhotzky.com

Oliver Mewes (drums, D) – www.echoes-of-swing.de/mewes.htm

Frank Roberscheuten (saxophones & clarinet, NL) – www.swingcats.nl

Engelbert Wrobel (saxophones & clarinet, D) – www.swingsociety.de

 Programme

Monday 5/7 – 18-19: welcome and introduction, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Tuesday 6/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+:  jam session

Wednesday 7/7– 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Thursday 8/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Friday 9/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 18-21.30: exclusive Jazz Dinner presenting the Jazzin’ July Teachers Band, 22-01+: jam session

Saturday 10/7 – 10-12: courses, 12-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 18-21.30: exclusive Jazz Dinner presenting the Jazzin’ July Teachers Band, 22-01: Student’s Concert

Sunday 11/7 – 10-11: breakfast and farewell

 Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Eindhoven NL

In the beautiful nature of the Leenderbos woods, one can find hotel Golden Tulip Jagershorst Eindhoven. The city of Eindhoven can be reached by car within 15 minutes and the hotel is easy to reach from the A2. Guests can park their car at the hotel for free. During a stay there are numerous possibilities to explore the countryside, the historic buildings and quaint villages in the vicinity. The surroundings are perfect for a walk, a bicycle ride and horseback riding.  The hotel has uniquely decorated rooms that are equipped with amenities such as a bath tub, an LCD television, internet and a minibar. Guests can make free use of the wellness center (including sauna and swimming pool). In the hotel there is a brasserie and a bar, where one can enjoy drinks and nice dishes. On sunny days guests can take a seat on one of the hotel’s two outside terraces and enjoy the weather.

Rates

Participants

single room – full board

+ workshop + jazz dinners                 € 960,- pp

Companions

full board (per night)                    € 75,- pp

(supplementary charge of €25,- for each jazz diner)

!  Attention: final date for registration is februari 1, 2010

For information regarding the Jazzin’ July Workshop contact:

Frank Roberscheuten, Bleekstraat 11, 3930 Achel, Belgium

tel & fax +32 11 515326

frank.roberscheuten@planet.nl

Visitors

Jagershorst will be serving an exclusive 4 course Jazz Dinner (beverages included) on both Friday and Saturday, 18.00 till 21.30. Between courses guests will be treated to a unique musical intermezzo from the superlative Jazzin’ July Teachers Band.

4 course dinner (bev. incl.)                        € 65,- pp

Jagershorst Single special: 4 course dinner (beverages incl.)

+ single room + breakfast                         € 125,- pp

Jagershorst Double special: 4 course dinner (beverages incl.)

+ double room + breakfast                        € 215,- 2ps

To make reservations for  the Jazz Dinner contact:

Golden Tulip Jagershorst

Valkenswaardseweg 44, 5595 XB Leende

The Netherlands

Tel +31 40 2061386

Fax +31 40 2062755

info@goldentulipjagershorst.nl

www.goldentulipjagershorst.nl