Tag Archives: Chris Smith

THE HORACE GERLACH FAN CLUB, or ANYTHING CAN SWING: THE ORIGINAL DOWNHOME JAZZ BAND (Toledo, Ohio, February 25, 2017)

On Benny Goodman’s “Camel Caravan” radio show — circa 1938 — there was a feature called ANYTHING CAN SWING, and what follows is a fine illustration.

Louis Armstrong followers like myself know the sacred and mysterious name of Horace Gerlach — co-composer with Louis of three masterpieces: SWING THAT MUSIC, I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM, and IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN.  I’ve featured them on this blog as performed by Louis, Marty Grosz, Banu Gibson, and others.

But I’ve never had occasion to spotlight the fourth Gerlach opus, which probably made him the most money, DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL.  In some traditional weddings, it is the song the bride and her father have their ceremonial dance to.  (I don’t know how this makes the groom feel, but leave that to you to ponder.)

Thanks to my friend and friend of JAZZ LIVES Laura Wyman — CEO of Wyman Video — we have this hot performance of DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL by the Original Downhome Jazz Band (February 25, 2017, Ye Olde Durty Bird, Toledo, Ohio) captured on video for everyone to enjoy, whether or not there is a daughter in the house.

The ODJB is Dave Kosmyna, leader, cornet, vocal; Chris Smith, trombone; Ray Heitger, clarinet; James Dapogny, piano; Pete Siers, drums, and do they beat it out:

Laura has also shared many fine hot videos on her YouTube channel.  Wyman Video (expert, discreet, and informed) can come and video your event: fee schedule available on request. Weddings, recitals, hot bands, basement jam sessions: you name it.

For now, I will muse upon the invisibility of Horace Gerlach: composer, arranger, friend of Louis.  Anyone have a portrait of the man to share?

May your happiness increase!

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“UNDERNEATH THE GROUND, WHERE ALL THE FUN IS FOUND”: TERRY WALDO’S GOTHAM JAZZ BAND (January 29, 2017): JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, JIM FRYER, TERRY WALDO, BRIAN NALEPKA, JOHN GILL, JAY LEPLEY

Even in January, it’s hot down below — when “down below” refers to Fat Cat, 75 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York, and when Terry Waldo and the Gotham City Band are in session.  As they were last January 29 — one of their Sunday early-evening delights.  (I’d advise not looking at the club’s graphic too strenuously; it raises certain questions.)

Our text for today, Brothers and Sisters, is the 1916 hit DOWN IN HONKY TONKY TOWN, by Charles McCarron and Chris Smith.  I would never have added the Y to the penultimate word, but that was because I’d never seen the cover of the sheet music.  I have changed my ways.

This site, the source of the sheet music above, also has a wonderfully erudite discussion about the origin of “honky tonk,” which I found fascinating.

Here is the start of the chorus:

Come honey, let’s go down,
to honky-tonky town.
It’s underneath the ground,
where all the fun is found.
There’ll be singing waiters,
singing syncopaters,
dancing to piano played by Mister Brown.
He plays piano queer,
he always plays by ear.
The music that you hear,
just makes you stay a year.

(At this point the variant versions became too deep for me to delve into without a paid sabbatical, but you get the idea — an inducement to good times.)

Here’s the quite hot instrumental version created belowstairs by Terry Waldo, piano; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jim Fryer, trombone; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Brian Nalepka, string bass; John Gill, banjo; Jay Lepley, drums:

The temperature is in the nineties today, so we don’t need anyone to get us hotter, but this will be homeopathically salutary, and you can also watch it next winter to keep heating costs down.

May your happiness increase!

“WHEN LOUIS MET BIX”: ANDY SCHUMM, ENRICO TOMASSO, MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, ALISTAIR ALLAN, SPATS LANGHAM, MORTEN GUNNAR LARSEN, MALCOLM SKED, NICK BALL (LAKE RECORDS)

A wise philosopher — Gladys Bentley or Blanche Calloway — once said, “There are a thousand ways to do something wrong, but only four or five ways to do it right.”  One of the most eagerly-awaited CDs of recent memory, WHEN LOUIS MET BIX,  on Lake Records, is a shining example of beautiful imaginations at work.

WHEN LOUIS MET BIX two

The assertive cover photograph is slightly misleading, suggesting that we might be getting ready for one of those Battle of the Valves scenes so beloved of film directors.  I offer as evidence one of the most musical (having seen this scene from THE FIVE PENNIES when I was perhaps eleven, it made a deep impression):

Beautiful as it is, that scene is all about mastery and power: the unknown challenger coming out of the shadows (the club dramatically silenced) to claim territory for himself, and being accepted by the gracious King, who makes space for him on the regal bandstand.  It might be satisfying but we know it’s not the way things happen.

And this myth isn’t the story of WHEN LOUIS MET BIX, either historically or in this evocative CD.  Consider this fraternal conversation, instead:

Immediately, the ear understands that this CD succeeds at being more than a recreation of a 1927 or 1928 after-hours jam session or cutting contest.  The music on this disc, even when it is searing hot, is carried along by a fundamental gentleness of spirit, an aura of brotherly love and deep admiration.  No skirmishes, no high notes except as they would logically occur.

As I mentioned at the start, there would have been many ways to make this noble idea turn into a leaden result.  One would have been to hew strictly to factoids: to use only songs that we knew Bix and Louis played or recorded, and perhaps narrow the repertoire to a choking narrowness by sticking to compositions both of them had done.  (By this time, certain well-played songs are reassuring to the audience but must feel like too-tight clothing to the musicians, restricting free movement.)  Another would have been to envision the music as competitive: the Bix of BARNACLE BILL pitted against the Louis of POTATO HEAD BLUES.  Nay, nay, to quote the Sage of Corona.

Instead, the repertoire is spacious — Louis and Bix loved melodies — and it offers Broadway show music by Rodgers and Blake next to pop classics of the time, alongside “jazz standards” and obscurities by Morton, Chris Smith, Fats Waller — and one evocative original by Andy Schumm.  And rather than simply say to the noble players in the studio, “All right.  MILENBERG JOYS, and find your own way home,” or “Meet you at the end,” the performances on this disc are delicately yet effectively shaped so that each seems a complete musical expression.  There are small arrangements on each track, and rather than that being an impiety (affront to the Goddess of Hot, who supposedly loathes anything worked out — although we know better) these little sketches make the performances even more satisfying.  Split choruses, four-bar trades, modulations, duet interludes, balanced conversations where X plays the melody and Y improvises around it, stop-time choruses . . . the wonders that musicians had and have accessible to them instead of the possible monotony of ensemble-solo-ensemble.

On that score, one of the reasons it has taken me longer than usual to review this worthy disc is that I kept falling in love with one track so that I wanted to play it all the way to work and all the way home.  By definition, CDs are economy-sized packages of music, and I think I would have been happier (although weighed down) if this Lake Records CD could have been sold as eight 12″ 78 discs in a heavy cardboard binder, to be listened to deeply one at a time, on and on.  But longing for the past, although understandable, has its limits.  And the imagined 78s would have warped in my car.

For the record, and what a record! –the songs are OL’ MAN RIVER / MILENBERG JOYS / CHLOE / MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND / WHO’S IT / PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES / WHISPERING / MANHATTAN / SKID-DAT-DE-DAT / BESSIE COULDN’T HELP IT (the one Louis-Bix recording overlap) / COME ON AND STOMP, STOMP, STOMP / MY MELANCHOLY BABY / WHEN SHE CAME TO ME/ I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY / THE BALTIMORE.

And the players.  Rico (Louis) and Andy (Bix) are joined by absolutely stellar folk.  And since neither Bix nor Louis tried to take up all the space on a recording, democracy prevails; thus we hear beautiful work from Alistair Allan, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano; Spats Langham, banjo and guitar; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Nicholas D. Ball, drums.

More evidence:

Through this CD, we are able to travel to an alternate universe, where glorious improvised music evokes and summons up the Great Departed.  And unlike actually attending the after-hour jam session at the Sunset Cafe or the Savoy Ballroom and thinking, “Where is all this beauty going?” we can have this dramatic evocation to visit over and over again (without our clothes smelling of smoke, spilled whiskey, or beer).

Incidentally, may I urge you to do the most venerable thing and purchase the actual physical disc (from Amazon US or UK or elsewhere).  Not only does the glorious sound Paul Adams got through his vintage microphones deserve to be reproduced in the highest fidelity (as opposed to mp3s played through earbuds on a noisy train in the common fashion) but you’ll miss out on wonderfully detailed but light-hearted liner notes by scholar-producer Julio Schwarz Andrade and many wonderful photographs that convey the joy that reigned at this session.

My hope is that Lake Records will continue this series of mystical voyages that make an imagined past into tangible present reality.  I’m sure that Julio, Paul, and the fellows have even more thrilling ideas for us in future.  And I hope that there is an on-the-spot Louis / Bix meeting at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party so that we can marvel again.

Thanks to all the participants for making a visit to the alternate universe possible and so joyous. . . . a world where lyricism, abandon, passion, and expertise shape the music.

May your happiness increase!

WYMAN VIDEO SWINGS OUT (Allegheny Jazz Party, September 2015)

Laura Wyman, completely focused on the task at hand

Laura Wyman, completely focused on the task at hand

WYMAN VIDEO is the new brainchild and business venture of Laura Wyman, whom you should know as the CEO and head videographer of JAZZ LIVES’ Michigan Bureau, headquartered in Ann Arbor.  She has taste and a dilligent perfectionism.

Before there was a WYMAN VIDEO, Laura was bringing us video of such wonders as this:

ST. LOUIS BLUES (W.C.Handy; arr James Dapogny) – Erin Morris, Brittany Armstrong Morton, Sarah Campbell, Rachel Bomphray & Hayden Nickel (dancers). Tom Bogardus (cl), Paul Finkbeiner (tpt), Chris Smith (tbn), James Dapogny (pno), Shannon Wade (bass), Rod McDonald (bjo) & Van Hunsberger (drms). Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Mich. 6-21-15.

and this gorgeous interlude:

FIREFLY (James Dapogny) – The James Dapogny Quartet. James Dapogny (pno), Mike Karoub (cello), Rod McDonald (gtr) & Kurt Krahnke (bass). Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor, Mich. 1-10-15.

But WYMAN VIDEO really came in to its own at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, with evidence right here:

CHERRY  (Don Redman) – Dan Block (cl & bass cl), Andy Stein (vln), Scott Robinson (bari sax & tarogato), James Dapogny (pno), Marty Grosz (gtr & leader) & Hal Smith (drms). Allegheny Jazz Party, Cleveland, Ohio. 9-11-15. Filmed by Laura Beth Wyman for Wyman Video.

I AIN’T GOT NOBODY from the same session:

All of this would suggest that WYMAN VIDEO is rather like JAZZ LIVES, and it is true that Laura is deeply involved in hot music and swing dance.  But her range is far broader than mine: Laura has been capturing speakers, readings, weddings, and other occasions.  I don’t think she goes to traffic court or other gloomy events, but I know she’s captured for posterity graduations, parties, swing dances, and other occasions where people gather happily.

So I urge you — if you live in or near Ann Arbor, Michigan, or if you want an expert videographer, contact Laura Wyman for videography that will help you have swinging memories.  And if you are not on Facebook, you can certainly contact her at wymanvideoa2@gmail.com.

May your happiness increase!

ARE YOU LOST?: CRAIG VENTRESCO and JOANNA STERNBERG TEACH THE LESSON (July 26, 2015)

NY map

I’ve known Deacon Craig Ventresco for more than a decade now, and learned a great deal from his moral teachings at Bar Tabac, the Cajun, and other pulpits on both coasts.

CRAIG

But I’d never heard him deliver such a serious sermon on the dangers of being destabilized in the cosmos as I did on Sunday, July 26, 2015, at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street (that’s the Lower East Side of New York City).  In his stern peroration, he was supported nobly by another great teacher, Joanna Sternberg (to be precise, Craig plays guitar and sings; Joanna accompanies him on the string bass).  In their efforts to uplift the community, they are assisted by members of the congregation Tamar Korn and Meredith Axelrod.  Heed the words of Deacon Ventresco.  Take them to heart:

The song was a 1908 hit for Bert Williams, composed by Chris Smith and Cecil Mack:

RIGHT CHURCH BUT THE WRONG PEW 1908Given the ubiquity of the GPS and the smartphone, to say nothing of those antiquities, paper maps . . . don’t let this happen to you.  And — if a less serious moral statement of mine may be permitted — I think Craig should sing more often. He has noble stories to impart to us.

May your happiness increase!

WITH A GOOD TEACHER, A STUDENT CAN DO ANYTHING!

I had to post this.  It’s so inspiring.  Watching Cammie (brave, willing, shy) try to shed her downy feathers on the dance floor — with the inspiring guidance of Erin Morris and the equally inspiring sounds of James Dapogny’s Jazz Band . . . well, anything is possible.  Even Peckin’:

For this occasion, June 21, 2015, at the Zal Gaz Grotto in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the JDJB is James Dapogny, piano; Tom Bogardus, clarinet;  Paul Finkbeiner, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; Shannon Wade, string bass; Rod McDonald, banjo; Van Hunsberger, drums.

Brought to us by the nimble lens, microphone, and tripod of Laura Beth Wyman (“Better living through cinematography.”)

Sing on!  Dance on!  Play on!

P.S.  A medical note.  Erin Morris and her Ragdolls now have over 500 “likes,” so I am sleeping better.  But have you done your part?  I haven’t verified this yet, but the thousandth person to “like” them, once verified, will receive a free lesson in Peckin’ from Erin herself.

May your happiness increase!

MORRIS, MORTON, MOTION

RAGDOLLS in blue

Somehow I don’t think that a troupe of young women dancers should have gone into The Jungle dressed the way they are in the video below.  Do I worry too much?  No reflection on their handmade costumes, mind you, but they don’t strike me as adequate protection. Where are the machetes, first aid kits, tropical chocolate, water distilling gear, bug repellent?

But they braved The Jungle, they entranced their audience, and we can now see the results of Erin Morris and her Ragdolls, supported by James Dapogny’s Jazz Band, mutually creating something slithery to Jelly Roll Morton’s JUNGLE BLUES:

I especially like the way the quintet keeps subdividing into a trio and a duo: watch the most vivid embodiment of this at 2:58 and again at 3:16: music reflected in physical grace.

Thanks to Erin Morris and Her RagdollsErin Morris, Brittany Armstrong Morton, Sarah Campbell, Rachel Bomphray, Hayden Nickel.

Thanks to James Dapogny and his Jazz Band: Tom Bogardus, clarinet; Paul Finkbeiner, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; James Dapogny, piano / arrangements; Shannon Wade, string bass; Rod McDonald, banjo; Van Hunsberger, drums.

Thanks to Laura Beth Wyman, who filmed this delight at the Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Michigan on June 21, 2015.

We live amidst marvels.

May your happiness increase!