Tag Archives: CHRISTMAS STOMP

LET ME OFF UPTOWN FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Part One): “CHRISTMAS STOMP” with GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Columbia University, December 1, 2012)

Saturday, December 1, 2012, was a wonderful day (they all are, if you have the right approach to them) but the evening was even better . . . I was fortunate enough to be uptown for the CD release party held at Columbia University.  The party was honoring the Grand Street Stompers on the occasion of their new CD, CHRISTMAS STOMP.  And STOMP they did.  (Learn more about that very pleasing CD here.)

GSS cover

For those of you who couldn’t take the A train (thank you, Billy Strayhorn) or drive uptown, here are some highlights of this most swinging, mobile evening. The participants: Gordon Au on trumpet / arrangements / compositions; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Davy Mooney, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass; Rich Levinson, drums; Tamar Korn, Molly Ryan, vocals — with guest appearances from the amazing dancer Andrew J. Nemr, clarinetist Dan Levinson, saxophonist Adam Lee, singer Margaret Gianquinto, and more.

Before we start,a caveat (nicely browned for the holiday season).  The music is wonderful; my videos are somewhat below-par for reasons that anyone who has been in a large hall filled with wonderfully graceful dancers will recognize.  An event such as this (thank you, Lucy!) is organized for the comfort and pleasure of the people who not only know what the Peabody is but are able to do . . . the world is not my sound stage.  Knowing this, I took up a position at the rear of the hall — a happy observer — and recorded what I saw.  In situations such as this, I think, “This is what it was like at the edge of the Savoy Ballroom,” and any discontent vanishes.  Perhaps next year someone will lend me a crane or at least a stepladder and a longer tripod.  Or not.  Here are the marvelous swirling delights I saw and heard on December 1.

I don’t know if it was because of his essential courtly modesty that Gordon called I MAY BE WRONG to start the evening.  More probably it was because that song (in 1934) became the theme song of the Apollo Theatre, and we were uptown:

WINTER WONDERLAND always used to be formulaic December-it’s-the -holidays-music until I heard Louis sing it with accompaniment / arrangement by Gordon Jenkins . . . .  Here Molly Ryan, fetching in green, steps up to the vocal microphone and reminds us just how pretty this simple 1931 song is: 

Some might presume that IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE (recorded memorably by Mr. Waller) was appropriate because of Santa’s ethical police, but I think swing candor is always valuable.  And Molly sings it without any didacticism:

WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA may have been the first song I ever heard Tamar Korn (all keyed up here, in red) sing.  Her improvisations on the theme remain memorable, sweet, tart, and hot:

Following in the holiday footsteps of Mister Strong, Tamar pretends to be a little anxious, asking the seasonal question, ‘ZAT YOU, SANTA CLAUS?:

And Tamar and the band offer Gordon’s whimsical sweet feline love song, CRAZY EYES:

More to come!  For now, if you’ve enjoyed these experiments in Cinema Very Tea, you’re sure to enjoy the real thing: learn more about the actual CD (a winner no matter what the calendar says) here.

May your happiness increase.

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STOMPING FOR CHRISTMAS: AN EARLY HOLIDAY BASH WITH GORDON AU / THE GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Columbia University, December 1, 2012)

It’s a cornucupia of hot holiday pleasures: a CD release party that’s also a swing dance extravaganza.  And more.  A dance lesson (at 7 PM) by Nathan Bugh.  The phenomenal dancer Andrew J. Nemr will be performing as only he can.  And (I quote):

Featuring dance performances, holiday photo station, surprise special guests, groovin’ DJs, and 3 hours of live swing-your-socks-off holiday and jazz tunes, including songs from the Grand St. Stompers‘ eagerly awaited second album!Christmas Stomp presents the holiday classics you know and love (plus a few rare gems), stomped on and reshaped into swinging, jazzy hits, courtesy of the delicious musical talents of Gordon Au, trumpet / cornet / arrangements; Tamar Korn and Molly Ryan, vocals; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Matt Musselman, trombone; Nick Russo, banjo / guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums.

Saturday, December 1st, 8-11PM // $12, $8 Columbia University students.  Diana Center, Barnard College: 3009 Broadway, New York, New York.

I attended the 2011 version of this annual splash, and even though I was restricted to Peabodying with my tripod at the rear of the room, it was a wonderful night.  Graceful, energized young men and women, fascinating to watch, dancing to the best live jazz . . .

And speaking of that jazz, I’ve been listening to my very own advance copy of CHRISTMAS STOMP — the new Grand Street Stompers’ holiday CD.  At the risk of being unsubtle, it is a great outpouring of sweetly quirky swing.  Gordon has a sublimely odd sense of things (underneath that superbly polite exoskeleton) and it comes through in the music.  I have very little tolerance of Christmas music — but in Gordon’s hands, it becomes a thing of slightly lopsided beauty.  After all, some of the most popular Christmas tunes lend themselves nicely to the GSS’ approach — I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS has never been a classic in my book, worthy of Robin and Rainger — but the GSS make it very lively and memorable.  On this CD, there’s also WINTER WONDERLAND, I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM, ‘ZAT YOU, SANTA CLAUS?, IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, MARCH OF THE TOYS, the aforementioned holiday near-adultery of Mommy and Mister C, THE ONLY THING I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, O HOLY NIGHT, and Gordon’s witty pastiche, ALL THE OTHER CHRISTMAS SONGS.  Sweet vocals from Tamar and Molly, and hot / tender playing from everyone else.

If you bring a crisp (or even a crumpled) twenty-dollar bill (“a double sawbuck” in ancient parlance) not only will you be admitted to the festivities on December 1, but you will go home with your own CD.  Amaze your friends; delight your family; be the envy of everyone.  For more details, click stompers.  On the site you will find a variety of VIP packages with delicious benefits.  My favorites are the ones that aren’t listed: a cornet lesson from Gordon; a half-hour discussion of cosmology and philosophy with Tamar; a visit to Nick’s house to play with his adorable children, a seminar in Universal horror films with Professor Dorn, a dance lesson from Lucy Weinman . . . any or all of these things can be negotiated.

And here’s some video evidence from last year — what a swell party it was!  (Purists will say that RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE isn’t Christmas music, but it’s good music.  So there.)

May your happiness increase.

NEWS FLASH! LOUIS ARMSTRONG and THE FINITE NATURE OF THINGS . . .

The new, complete two-disc edition of SATCHMO AT SYMPHONY HALL: 65th ANNIVERSARY — THE COMPLETE PERFORMANCE is a limited edition of 3000 copies.  

I didn’t know about the “limited edition” part of that sentence until a day ago, so I am encouraging JAZZ LIVES readers to act promptly rather than to lament that the edition is all sold out.  You can purchase it here — if you live in the New York area, you can visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, which has its very own stash.

What does “the complete performance” mean?  THIRTY MINUTES OF NEW MATERIAL . . . .

I’ll let Ricky Riccardi, Louis scholar and the Archivist for the LAHM, explain:

The original 1951 2-LP Decca set had the majority of the music, but there were some edits, including four complete performances, all the themes, Louis’s announcements and some solos (Dick Cary’s on “Royal Garden Blues” and some extra noodling by Barney Bigard at the end of “Tea for Two”). When Orrin Keepnews finally put it on on CD in the 90s, he made the choice to strike three tunes (“I Cried for You,” “That’s My Desire” and “How High the Moon”) AND he completely shuffled the original order of performances.   I’m the Archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum and last year, we learned that the Swedish Armstrong collector Gosta Hagglof donated every scrap of his Armstrong collection to the Museum. It arrived last summer.  

The first thing I looked for was “Symphony Hall” because Gosta told me in 2007 he was working on a complete edition. And sure enough, I found a disc…and another…and another…and another.  All in all, I found about 30 individual CDs with Gosta’s Symphony Hall work.  He somehow had access to the original acetates and made multiple CD copies of those and then he made extra copies with pitch correction, skips edited out, noise reduction, etc.  

Last October I contacted Harry Weinger at Universal and he came out to our Archives to listen to it. He flipped and we’ve been off and running since.  It’s a 2-CD set on the Hip-O Select label, with the original liner notes by Ernie Anderson and new liner notes by yours truly.  The concert will be sequenced in the original order, starting with the band tuning up. All of the announcements will be heard for the first time, in addition to the themes.  And there will be complete versions of “Back O’Town Blues,” “St. James Infirmary,” “Velma’s Blues” and “Jack Armstrong Blues.”  

They’re all fantastic.  I can only assume “Back O’Town,” “St. James” and “Jack Armstrong” were not on the original LP because Victor had just released versions.  And even “Velma’s Blues” is a knockout, as it’s almost 7 minutes long with a long interlude where Velma danced and the All Stars just played the blues (Sid Catlett catches her every move).  

I’m a biased Armstrong nut who has always loved this concert, of course, but trust me, hearing it complete, in the original order, with the announcements, the new tunes, everything, is a really, really special experience.

For some listeners, this won’t in itself be enough.  I understand that in the linguistic battle between “fixed income” and “limited edition,” the first phrase wins.

But I urge you to consider purchasing this set if you can for a few reasons.  One is the precious experience of going back in time . . . settling into a chair in your living room and being able to sink into a plush velvet seat at Symphony Hall in 1947 while Louis Armstrong and what I think of as the best small band he ever had play for you.  That, in its own way, is far more important than simply being able to hear a new Dick Cary solo.

I first heard this concert (in its edited form) more than forty years ago and I can attest that it is life-changing music.

Secondly, there is the matter of the responsive audience as a motivating force. In blunt words, why do companies like Universal issue Louis Armstrong discs and packages?  Some of it is the spiritual love that people like Harry Weinger have for the music: something I do not doubt.  But if record companies see that their products sell, they create more . . . so that buying SASH is your way — the only effective way — of saying, “Please, sir, we want some more!”

Don’t wait until they’re gone and you’re reduced to desperate means . . .

But make sure you leave enough in the Jazz Piggy Bank for a copy of the Grand Street Stompers’ CHRISTMAS STOMP.  I’ve heard that and it is wonderful.  More to say about that one soon . . .

May your happiness increase.