Tag Archives: Chris Hopkins

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/.