Tag Archives: Chuck Redd

GOOD, BETTER, BEST: SWEET NOTES FROM THE 26th SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY

The musicians are taking a break; it’s too early for another meal; what should I do?  I can share my joy at being at the San Diego Jazz Party, that’s what.

It’s only about twenty percent through (there’s still a full day-and-a-half of music to come) but it has been splendid.  Nicely organized, humanely planned — all the things that make a jazz weekend comfortable as well as gratifying — and the music last night was often spectacular.  You can find out the complete list of players here but I just want to speak of a few delicious moments that happened last night so you, too, can get a taste . . .

Even before the official festivities began, there was wonderful music during the cocktail hour: Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Jason Wanner, and Dave Stone started slow and easy and then romped through a closing IDAHO; Antti Sarpila, Chuck Redd, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, and Nicki Parrott followed with a passionate NEW ORLEANS and an old-school SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL.

(During the soundcheck that followed, Sarpilla sat down at the piano and quietly — as if no one had been listening — played a sweet, streamlined DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, which was a private treat.)

A ten-minute swaggering WABASH BLUES was offered to us by Ed Polcer, Bria, Antti, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Cocuzzi, Richard Simon, Ed Metz.  A smaller group — John Allred, Harry Allen, Chuck Redd, Jason Wanner, Dave Stone, and Butch Miles — showed us what Groovy and Sweet meant in less than half an hour, with a coasting ROBBINS’ NEST, a from-the-heart SOLITUDE, and an exuberant CHEROKEE.  Becky Kilgore, looking mighty glamorous, took the stage with old pals Barrett and Erickson, Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, and Ed Metz for a set that culminated in the best FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE since Ivie Anderson, and a Romany duo: Becky’s own THE GYPSY (which began with a tender Sportiello-Barrett duet) followed by Eddie’s narrative of finding love and caffeine, IN A LITLE GYPSY TEAROOM.

And four more sets followed!  How about a duo of Venerables Bucky Pizzarelli and Mundell Lowe (the latter now 91) for — among other beauties — I REMEMBER YOU and an Oscar Pettiford blues?  Bria Skonberg told us all about Ruth Etting and then sang and played — with real ardor — LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME.  Houston Person wooed the crowd with medium-tempo ballads and Ellington; Anti Sarpilla took out his curved soprano for SUMMERTIME and his clarinet for RUNNIN’ WILD, and a band of Harry Allen, Bria, and Dan Barrett, Rossano, Richard Simon, and Butch Miles created a hot THEM THERE EYES, which made many pairs shine and gleam.

If you were in the audience, you know I am understating what we all saw and heard.  More to come.  Save your quarters, make your plans for 2105.

May your happiness increase! 

FEBRUARY COULD BE THE WARMEST MONTH, IF YOU’RE PROPERLY SITUATED: THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (February 21-23, 2014)

Although it is the shortest month, February has a well-deserved reputation for unpleasantness.  But this February could change all the bad press, if you can make it to the San Diego Jazz Party.

The Party begins Friday, February 21 and continues at a leisurely pace to Sunday, February 24, 2014, at the Hilton San Diego / Del Mar (15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, CA 92014-1901 — (800) 833-7904 (toll-free) / (858) 792-5200 (local) / (858) 792-9538 (fax).

Here is the Party’s site.

They’ve been doing a fine job of presenting classic mainstream jazz since 1988, when these musicians who appeared at the first Party, a list that makes me very nostalgic:

John Clayton, Jr. (b); Bob Haggart (b); Milt Hinton (b); Kenny Davern (cl); Peanuts Hucko (cl); Bob Wilber (cl); Jake Hanna (d); Gus Johnson, Jr. (d); Butch Miles (d); Herb Ellis (g); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Dick Hyman (p); Paul Smith (p); Ralph Sutton (p); Scott Hamilton (ts); Flip Phillips (ts); Marshal Royal (as); Buddy Tate (ts); Al Grey (tb); George Masso (tb); Bill Watrous (tb); Ed Polcer (co); Warren Vaché (co); Snooky Young (t).

The 2014 list of players and singers is just as inspiring: Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Mundell Lowe, Ed Metz Jr., Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpilla, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.

On that list, players born in 1922 and 1926: will we have decades to see their like again? And — to balance it all out — there are Youngbloods born in 1978 and only a little earlier. Men and women, American and European, a lovely diversified mix — but with one common goal, to swing memorably and melodically.

And when you look here, at how the sets have been planned — you can see how intelligently this Party has been laid out. All the music is in one ballroom of a comfortable hotel (so no rushing from room to room); the music runs from late afternoon Friday to late afternoon Sunday with breaks for meals, and the layout of who-plays-when is wise and sensible. There’s a comforting awareness of an audience’s need for dynamics, for variety, so solo piano sets and duos for piano, for guitar, alternate with quartets and quintets.  There is one eleven-person blowout and that is appropriately on Saturday night.

As to those important questions, “Can I / we get there?” “Can I / we afford it?” you’re on your own and only by visiting the site will you find answers to these questions. I do think that a weekend like this is worth its weight in YouTube videos and CDs, but that’s me.

Worth repeating, I think: many jazz fans spend much energy lamenting What Was. “Were you there at the sessions when Kitty Katz and the Persian Hairballs would play MY LITTLE BIMBO or C JAM BLUES for weeks at a time? That club / festival / party is now gone and I miss it so.”  I miss it too. But I know why it’s no longer here, and so do you.

As Eleanor Roosevelt or perhaps Scatman Crothers said, “It is better to Do Something than to Lament in your den.  The things you love will evaporate if you aren’t participating in them.”

See you at San Diego on February 21st! Details here. And if you want to tell them, “I only did it to stop that pesky JAZZ LIVES from tugging at my cyber-clothes and hissing “Carpe diem!” in my ear, I will accept the stigma and the guilt.

May your happiness increase!

GOIN’ TO SAN DIEGO (and YOU CAN COME, TOO)

I’ve been listening to a bootleg Jimmy Rushing lp where he sings GOIN’ TO CHICAGO, with the famous lines, “Goin’ to Chicago / Sorry, but I can’t take you.”

Thus my title: the Beloved and I are thrilled to be making our debut voyage to the 2014 San Diego Jazz Party, and we can — in a manner of speaking — take you. And even if you don’t want to be Our New Pals, you owe it to yourself to check out what the SDJP is offering from Friday, February 21 to Sunday, February 24, 2014, at the Hilton San Diego / Del Mar (15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, CA 92014-1901 — (800) 833-7904 (toll-free) / (858) 792-5200 (local) / (858) 792-9538 (fax).

Here is the Party’s site.

They’ve been doing a wonderful job of presenting classic mainstream jazz since their first party in 1988: I looked at their archives and found these musicians who appeared at the first Party, a list that makes me very nostalgic.  It’s also proof of fine taste:

John Clayton, Jr. (b); Bob Haggart (b); Milt Hinton (b); Kenny Davern (cl); Peanuts Hucko (cl); Bob Wilber (cl); Jake Hanna (d); Gus Johnson, Jr. (d); Butch Miles (d); Herb Ellis (g); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Dick Hyman (p); Paul Smith (p); Ralph Sutton (p); Scott Hamilton (ts); Flip Phillips (ts); Marshal Royal (as); Buddy Tate (ts); Al Grey (tb); George Masso (tb); Bill Watrous (tb); Ed Polcer (co); Warren Vaché (co); Snooky Young (t).

Some of those heroes are gone, but the 2014 list of players and singers is just as inspiring: Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Mundell Lowe, Ed Metz Jr., Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpilla, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.

On that list, players born in 1922 and 1926: will we have decades to see their like again?  And — to balance it all out — there are Youngbloods born in 1978 and only a little earlier.  Men and women, American and European, a lovely diversified mix — but with one common goal, to swing memorably and melodically.

And when you look here, at the lineup — how the sets have been planned — you can see how intelligently this Party has been laid out. All the music is in one ballroom of what I see is a comfortable hotel (so no rushing from room to room); the music runs from late afternoon Friday to late afternoon Sunday with breaks for meals, and the layout of who-plays-when is wise and sensible. Some parties put one seven-piece band (three or four horns with rhythm) on after another and the results can seem similar.

At this Party, there’s a very comforting awareness of an audience’s need for dynamics, for variety, so solo piano sets and duos for piano, for guitar, alternate with quartets and quintets; there’s only one eleven-person blowout and that is appropriately on Saturday night.

As to those important questions, “Can I / we get there?” “Can I / we afford it?” you’re on your own and only by visiting the site can you find answers to the second question. I do think that a weekend like this is worth its weight in YouTube videos and CDs, but that’s me.

What follows might seem overly gloomy, but it’s no less true.  Many fanciers of the music who have long memories spend much energy lamenting What Was.  “Were you there at the sessions when Big Barko and his Leash-Pullers used to play IN A MELLOTONE (or UNDER THE BAMBOO TREE) for forty-seven minutes?  That club / festival / party is now gone and I miss it so.”

I miss it too.  But I know why it’s no longer here, and so do you.

As Eleanor Roosevelt or perhaps Eddie South used to say, “It is better to write a check, make a hotel reservation, and be there now than to sit in your living room lamenting that The Great Things are here no more.  The Great Things need you to preserve them.”

See you at San Diego on February 21st! Details here.  And if you want to tell them, “I only did it to stop that nagging JAZZ LIVES from plucking at my sleeve and whispering “Carpe diem!” in my ear, I will bear the emotional burden.

May your happiness increase!

UNDER WESTERN SKIES, JAZZ HORIZONS

Long-Beach-California-Sunrise

With great pleasure, I have transplanted myself from one coast to the other, from suburban New York to Marin County in California, where I will be for the next eight months.  So what follows is a brief and selective listing of musical events the Beloved and I might show up at . . . feel free to join us!

Clint Baker and his New Orleans Jazz Band will be playing for the Wednesday Night Hop in San Mateo on January 8: details and directions here.

Emily Asher’s Garden Party will be touring this side of the continent in mid-January, with Emily’s Hoagy Carmichael program.  On January 16, she, friends, and sitters-in will make merry at a San Francisco house concert: details here.  On the 17th, the Garden Party will reappear, bright and perky, at the Red Poppy Art House, to offer another helping of subtle, lyrical, hot music: details to come here.

Clint and Friends (I don’t know the official band title, so am inventing the simplest) will be playing for the Central Coast Hot Jazz Society in Pismo Beach on January 26.  Details are not yet available on the website, but I have it on good authority that the band will include Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Mike Baird, Carl Sonny Leyland, and Katie Cavera.

A moment of self-advertisement: I will be giving a Sunday afternoon workshop at Berkeley’s The Jazz School  — on February 9, called LOUIS ARMSTRONG SPEAKS TO US.  Details here.’

And, from February 21-23, the Beloved and I will be happily in attendance at the San Diego Jazz Party — details here — to be held at the Del Mar Hilton, honoring guitar legend Mundell Lowe and featuring Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Ed Metz, Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpila, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.  The sessions will offer solo piano all the way up to nonets, with amiable cross-generational jazz at every turn.  In a triumph of organization, you can even see here who’s playing with whom and when, from Friday afternoon to Sunday farewell.

In March, the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey . . . make your plans here!

And — a little closer to the here and now — if you don’t have plans for a New Year’s Eve gala, check out ZUT! in Berkeley.  Good food — and Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz (with singer Kallye Gray) will be giving 2013 a gentle push at the stroke of midnight.  Details here.

We hope to see our friends at these events!

May your happiness increase!

DELICACY AND STRENGTH: NATE NAJAR’S “BLUES FOR NIGHT PEOPLE”

Guitarist Nate Najar knows what that wooden box with strings is for — to fill the void with lovely, surprising sounds.  And he continues to do so on his new CD, a tribute to Charlie Byrd, BLUES FOR NIGHT PEOPLE.

Nate Najar cover

I write “continues,” because I was immediately impressed with Nate and his music when he came and sat in at The Ear Inn some time ago.  Ear-people know that 326 Spring Street is a hot place for guitarists: Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden, Chris Flory, James Chirillo, Julian Lage, and some other notables.

But Nate stands out as he did that Sunday night: a sweetly melodic player who didn’t let sweetness get in the way of swinging.  “Delicacy” and “strength” may seem an odd combination — a writer’s contradiction designed primarily to catch the eye — but they live happily in Nate’s playing.  His sound is beautiful, subtle, full of shadings — but he never is content to provide pretty aural wallpaper, the guitarist’s version of Laura Ashley for the ears.

No, his notes ring and chime; his phrases have meaning and depth on their own, and they fit into the larger compositions he creates.  And “strength” is evident in several ways on this disc.  In its most obvious manifestation, it comes across powerfully in the opening blues — not harsh, but not music for people who “play at” the blues.  But strength, we know, is also a kind of wisdom: knowing where to take a breath, where to be still, so that the music created resonates powerfully even after the performances have ended.

Come on and hear.  Here.

The CD, as you can see, is Nate’s respectful but lively tribute to another down-home poet of the guitar — where he remembers but does not imitate.  It offers a variety of moods, tempos, and sounds — from lovely ballad playing to rocking Latin expressiveness to barbecue-flavored blues.  Nate is accompanied by the wonderful bassist Tommy Cecil and the indispensable Chuck Redd — on vibes as well as drums.  Beautifully recorded.   And the CD has very plain-spoken yet elegant notes written by Nate and by Charlie’s widow, Becky.  The songs are MUSIC FOR NIGHT PEOPLE (the last movement, called 4 AM FUNK) / DJANGO / DESAFINADO /SWING 59 / O PATO / A SINGLE PETAL OF A ROSE / CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ / HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES? / WHO CARES? / SOMEONE TO LIGHT UP MY LIFE / SI TU VOIS MA MERE / REMEMBERING CHARLIE BYRD.

It’s wise, subtle, and genuine music.

May your happiness increase.

THE STEM, THE MOOD, THE NEST at ATLANTA 2012: CHUCK REDD, HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, RICHARD SIMON, ED METZ (April 21, 2012)

A simple set: celebrating New York as jazz’s central heating system; amorous feelings; the comforts of home.  By that I mean Ellington’s MAIN STEM, the Fields-McHugh I’M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, and Sir Charles Thompson’s tribute to disc jockey and friend of jazz Fred Robbins, ROBBINS’ NEST — all performed with grace and style by Chuck Redd, vibraphone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; Ed Metz, drums — at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party.

MAIN STEM:

I’M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, featuring Harry, Rossano, Richard, and Ed:

ROBBINS’ NEST:

May your happiness increase.

POSITIVELY VIBRANT at ATLANTA 2012: JOHN COCUZZI, CHUCK REDD, HARRY ALLEN, MATT MUNISTERI, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, FRANK TATE, ED METZ (April 22, 2012)

Two men, one vibraphone, no pushing or crowding, just swing and harmony: more a brotherly conversation than a cutting contest.  The font line is John Cocuzzi and Chuck Redd, wielding their mallets with intensity and care; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.

Only at the Atlanta Jazz Party!

The venerable and much-loved CRAZY RHYTHM to start:

John slyly sings I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING:

A lovely interlude — harking back to JATP or to Condon’s — the ballad medley: GHOST OF A CHANCE (John) / CHELSEA BRIDGE (Harry) – SOME OTHER SPRING (Chuck):

And the Hampton – Christian – Goodman AIR MAIL SPECIAL to close:

May your happiness increase.

“NAUGHTY / PLEASURE”: ATLANTA 2012: BOB SCHULZ, ALLAN VACHE, JOHN ALLRED, MATT MUNISTERI, MARK SHANE, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 21, 2012)

Swinging the Twenties in the twenty-first century!  Bob Schulz, cornet; John Allred, trombone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums, treat these venerable jazz tunes — associated with Jimmie Noone, Bix Beiderbecke, and Eddie Condon — as fresh material for idiomatic improvisation, which made everyone at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party happy.

BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME:

I’LL BE A FRIEND “WITH PLEASURE”:

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: RUSS PHILLIPS, JOHN ALLRED, MARK SHANE, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 22, 2012)

Not FLYIN’ HOME but its brass cousin — SLIDIN’ HOME as two of the best jazz trombonists show off their wonderful musical teamwork at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party.  Closer to my lens was John Allred, next to him (and at the microphone) was Russ Phillips; they were aided and abetted by Mark Shane, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums — a stellar rhythm trio.

We were more than satisfied!

The Rodgers and Hart classic THIS CAN’T BE LOVE:

Even more venerable, Isham Jones’ ON THE ALAMO:

An invitation to nocturnal spooning and the like, GET OUT AND GET UNDER THE MOON:

And, appropriately, Gordon Jenkins’ GOOD-BYE:

All this group needs is a nifty title or acronym.  JARP doesn’t convey their excellence sufficiently, nor does FSFT (Famous Sons of Famous Trombonists) but I am sure someone will suggest something better.

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: ED POLCER, DUKE HEITGER, RUSS PHILLIPS, ALLAN VACHE, MATT MUNISTERI, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 21, 2012)

A set of hot music by Ed Polcer, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano, Frank Tate, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums. Recorded April 21, 2012 at the Atlanta Jazz Party.

Ageless music — even if the repertoire comes from 1917-1935, the energy, wit, and passion are unabated.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (for Louis and Papa Joe, Bix and his Gang, Condon and his boys, whether at the Park Lane, the Newport Jazz Festival, 47 West Third Street, or the New School):

LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE (in honor of Fats Waller, Danny Coots’ “Uncle Fred,” and the crew of THIS OLD HOUSE):

FIDGETY FEET (recalling the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the Big 72 and all the bands worldwide in between):

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: CHUCK REDD, HARRY ALLEN, MARK SHANE, RICHARD SIMON, ED METZ (April 21, 2012)

Vibraphonist and percussionist Chuck Redd has fine taste, whether he’s leading a small group at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party or — more informally — keeping time on the paper tablecloth with his wire brushes at The Ear Inn.  Here’s a sample of the former — with saxophonist Harry Allen, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Richard Simon, and fellow percussionist Ed Metz.  On the menu, a Rodgers and Hammerstein ballad from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, a swing perennial that I associate with Lester Young, a Cole Porter love-in-swingtime song from HIGH SOCIETY (Bing sang it to Grace Kelly while Louis played a memorable obbligato . . . Ruby loved it, too), and a hard-bop version of the everlasting blues.  Hear for yourself.

THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL:

JUST YOU, JUST ME:

I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA:

Billy Strayhorn’s THE INTIMACY OF THE BLUES:

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: BUCKY PIZZARELLI, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 21, 2012)

From the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party, a little interlude from Bucky, Frank, and Chuck — full of feeling and swing.

THESE FOOLISH THINGS:

Bucky loves to play Django Reinhardt’s NUAGES, making those clouds become ominous, stormy.  But this time he prefaces it with ninety seconds of a piece whose title has proven elusive, even to my Song Sleuths.  I’m betting it’s Chopin or a Forties movie theme.  Any better answers?

Beautiful unhackneyed music!

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: DUKE HEITGER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN ALLRED, ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, RICHARD SIMON, CHUCK REDD (April 22, 2012)

If you remember depictions of jazz in classic films, competition is always key.  One trumpet player plays higher, faster, louder: he is crowned the New King of Jazz and the pretenders to the throne slink away into the night.  Some of the greatest players saw the bandstand as a place where they could prove themselves Reigning Monarch.  Wiser ones understand that harmony is the key: beautiful teamwork makes for beautiful music.

This friendly enlightenment was enacted in front of our eyes on Sunday morning, April 22, 2012, at the Atlanta Jazz Party — at an hour that most musicians only recognize under certain kinds of duress.  But everyone played angelically. . . and brotherly love came out through their instruments.  No cutting contest here between trumpeters Duke and Jon-Erik, friends for a long time, and the rest of the band followed suit:

An easy-rocking YELLOW DOG BLUES:

I GOT IT BAD — music for the ages:

TIGER RAG, not too fast:

Beyond category, beyond commentary, a community of eloquent souls.

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: BOB SCHULZ and FRIENDS SPREAD THE TRUTH (April 20, 2012)

I take my title from the story that Wingy Manone, at the height of the “jazz wars” of the Forties, had a sign made for the club he was playing in, COME IN AND HEAR THE TRUTH.  It’s not that there is only one Truth (heaven forbid!) but the Condonite variety with roots both in 1924 and in 2012 is a very attractive thing.

Cornetist Bob Schulz knows all about that Truth, and he embodies it, too.  Here he is amidst congenial swingers at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party — Russ Phillips, trombone / vocal; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums — and here are three versions of Hot Veritas for all of us to enjoy.

BEALE STREET BLUES summons up W.C. Handy, Louis, Condon, and several fine mid-Fifties Columbia sessions made possible by the master, George Avakian, happily still with us:

When Rossano started off SOMEDAY SWEETHEART (with or without the comma), I relaxed into my chair: good things were going to happen!  And they did:

And here’s Russ to sing about how one gets Spiffy when one’s Squeeze (in this case, Lulu) is back in town:

After BEALE STREET, Bob said, “That was fun,” and he wasn’t being immodest, just accurate.

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: HARRY ALLEN, CHUCK REDD, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, FRANK TATE, ED METZ: PERPETUAL MOTION (April 20, 2012)

Harry Allen — and the people he chooses to improvise with — sets such a consistently high standard that I think listeners might unintentionally take him for granted.  This would be a mistake.  Ask any musician of any school or style if what is seen in the videos below is easy or unremarkable.

This session took place at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party, where brilliance flourished in the most genial surroundings.  Harry took the stage on Friday evening, April 20, 2012, with Chuck Redd (vibraphone); Rossano Sportiello (piano); Frank Tate (string bass); Ed Metz (drums).  Most of us thought we knew what was coming — swing, ballads, something Latin — but we didn’t know what Harry and Company had in mind.  While it was happening, I sat amazed.  “They’re not stopping,” I thought.  “My goodness, how long can they keep this up?”  You will see that Harry and his colleagues slid from one song to the other (much in the manner of Ruby Braff, who loved to join a ballad to a swinger for dramatic effect) for thirty-six minutes.

The songs?  IMAGINATION; I’M OLD-FASHIONED; LESTER LEAPS IN; BLUES; BODY AND SOUL.

My video is in two parts for mechanical reasons only: I feared that YouTube would have trouble ingesting and uploading my HD video, full of information, that was over a half-hour.  So I stopped filming, took a breath, and started again.

I think the results are marvelous.  No strain, no histrionics, no flagpole-sitting or showing-off.  Just perpetual motion in Swing.

Here’s the first part:

The closing fourteen minutes plus:

Why did Harry choose to play his set in this fashion? Because he could?  Because it was fun?  Because it got the most music into his allotted time?  I don’t know.  But it certainly was an achievement!

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY 2012: ALLAN VACHE AND FRIENDS PLAY BENNY GOODMAN (April 20, 2012)

This wonderful quintet session took place on the first day of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party — April 20 — and it honored the King of Swing.  The living practitioners of the jazz art on the bandstand were swing kings in their own right: Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Richard Simon, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums.

Ruby Braff once told an interviewer (I am paraphrasing here) that after the world ended, there would still be two men sitting on an island telling Benny Goodman stories.  And it’s true much of the posthumous attention paid to BG has been for his odd, often unappealing personality traits.  But the music is what remains, and I wonder if it were possible to listen to some of his great melodic improvisations without a heavy layer of preconceptions (not only was he eccentric, but he was famous, Caucasian, Jewish, successful, popular — someone to be viewed with distrust in certain academic circles as being both an exploiter and a thief) would they not rank alongside, say, Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson, among others, for their beauty and clarity?

The music for this set came for the most part from the period in Goodman’s life when Charlie Christian was a transforming force.  It amuses me that the people who decry post-1945 jazz as too ornate, too intellectual, too fast (think of Bird and Dizzy) don’t usually acknowledge that the very fast original lines the Goodman Sextet played in the years 1939-1945 lead directly into the “excesses of bebop.”  (Blame John Kirby, too, while you’re at it.)

But music is more durable than the whims of its creators, the fictions created by ideologues, the dividing lines drawn by academics.  Here is 2012 swing with a fine awareness of the past co-existing with its contemporary enthusiasm.

Variations on SLIPPED DISC, a title saying something about Goodman’s quite painful sciatica:

A SMOOTH ONE, the aptly titled line over LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:

STEALIN’ APPLES, which owes its existence to both Fats Waller and Fletcher Henderson:

A feature for jazz master Bucky (a mainstay of later Goodman groups), Richard Simon, and Chuck Redd: Edgar Sampson’s STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:

And a rousing THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE:

May your happiness increase.

THE 2012 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY WAS GREAT FUN: RUSS PHILLIPS and FRIENDS, “YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME”

I will have more to say about the delights of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party — wonderful musicians, a pleasant setting, nice people making everything happen, meeting old friends and making new ones — as I share more videos.

But right now I thought I would let the music speak for itself, as it does so sweetly and eloquently.  On the first evening of the party, April 20, 2012, trombonist Russ Phillips took the stand with a small assemblage of creative fellows who know how to make the music soar without making too much of a show: Jon-Erik Kellso and Duke Heitger on trumpets; Allan Vache, clarinet; Mark Shane, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums.  They floated their way with great ease through YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME — and pay special attention to the philosophical dialogue for trumpets in the middle.  Delicious conversational utterances in the middle of a splendid performance:

Was ever the idea of being taken advantage of so tenderly dramatized?

For those of you who are — as I was — gently swept away by the sounds, I encourage you to click atlanta and learn more about the 2013 party.  Being there is even better than watching the videos, I assure you.

May your happiness increase.

PRINCES OF WAILS: The EarRegulars and Friends at The Ear Inn (March 25, 2012)

I considered two other titles for this posting.  One, from pop culture, was, “I’ll have what they’re having!”  The other, from Byron, was “Let joy be unconfined.”  You’ll soon see why.

For nearly five years, the collective ensemble — an expandable quartet — known as The EarRegulars has been holding forth at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday nights from 8-11 PM, with astounding results.  If you’ve never been there or seen these videos, you might raise an eyebrow at “astounding.”  Watch!  Then, if you think the adjective hyperbolic, you can write to Customer Service for a refund.

On March 25, 2012, The EarRegulars began as Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, taragota and tenor saxophone; Greg Cohen, string bass.  Four of the finest; friends and intuitive colleagues.

Here’s their direct tribute to Louis Armstrong and the rocking New Orleans tradition (also perhaps a warning against the dangers of opium smoking, if you know the lyrics), WILLIE THE WEEPER:

Then, a direct tribute to Irving Berlin and Ruby Braff in RUSSIAN LULLABY (also an indirect memory of Louis, who — as a youth — warmed to the “Russian lullabies” that Mrs. Karnofsky sang to her baby):

The quartet slowly started to expand — in the most joyous fashion — with the addition of trombonist Art Baron and drummer Chuck Redd, the latter keeping time with wire brushes on the paper tablecloth, for PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE:

And the climax, reminiscent of the Fifty-Second Street jam sessions that most of us have experienced only in photographs — a nearly seventeen-minute exploration of the Ellington blues, THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE*.  Jon-Erik, Matt, Scott, Art, and Chuck were joined by Gordon Au, trumpet; Alex Hoffmann and Dan Block, saxes; Vinny Raniolo, acoustic guitar — for a wondrously sustained workout:

Oh, play those things!

The EarRegulars and Friends cast their bread upon the waters, and it comes back as buttered toast (to quote Sonny Greer).

 May your happiness increase.

*Note.  This blues was originally known under another name.  Oddly enough, the members of the Ellington band were all devoted to healthy diet long before it became fashionable.  Thus, when this blues emerged as a collective idea, they put a title to it: “All The Boys in the Band Eat Healthy,” and I am sure they did.

GEORGIA ON OUR MINDS: THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY 2012 IS COMING!

Forgive me for pulling at your coat or plucking at your sleeve, but a gentle reminder is in order.  If you haven’t bought your tickets for the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party, the twenty-third, which takes place April 20-22, 2012, what in the name of W.C. Handy might you be waiting for?

I don’t want to be excessively grim, but my Latin friends CARPE DIEM and TEMPUS FUGIT make their presence known as I write this.  And at my back I always hear Time’s swinging chariot drawing near . . . which is to say (more plainly) that parties and festivals don’t always return year after year, nor do the participants.  There!  Now that the ominous murmurings are over, we can return to our regularly scheduled program of lifting the spirit.

Many jazz parties (I say this quietly) tend to rely on the same circle of artists — not necessarily a terrible thing: why choose novelty for its own sake?  But the AJP has some special added attractions.  One of them is singer / pianist Freddy Cole.  Some know Freddy only as Nat’s younger brother — this is accurate but quite limiting.  Freddy is a fine sinuous singer and swinging pianist — both facets evident in this romantic 2008 reading of FLY ME TO THE MOON.  The applause at the end is well-deserved, and since some parties and festivals specialize in Fast and Loud, a swinging crooner is always welcome.  And just in case you were wondering, he isn’t his Brother:

Here’s the eternally vigorous Bucky Pizzarelli — at 85! — in March 2011, with guitarist Ed Laub, paying tribute to Les Paul:

Even at this easy tempo, Bucky’s essential swing is as natural to him as breathing.  Will you be swinging this expertly at 85 . . . ?

Sometimes virtue is rewarded while it’s still around to hear the cheers: at the 2012 AJP, cornetist / bandleader Ed Polcer will be given a richly-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award.  I don’t know if you first heard Ed as a swinging Princetonian, at a long string of Atlanta Jazz Parties, at Eddie Condon’s (which is where I first heard him, in 1975, standing next to Ruby Braff and Vic Dickenson) and other parties and clubs all around the world.  Like Bucky, Ed always swings.  Here he is only a year ago, amidst West Coast friends, playing MOTEN SWING:

And there’s something new and exciting — Joe Gransden and his sixteen-piece big band.  Dance music of the highest order!  Here they are in 2011, sweetly moving through NIGHT AND DAY:

All of this will take place on the weekend of April 20-22, 2012, starting Friday evening and continuing until Sunday afternoon.

But wait!  There’s more!

How about a brass section to impress Gabriel: Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, Ed Polcer, Bob Schulz, Joe Gransden, John Allred, Russ Phillips?

Reeds by Allan Vache, Harry Allen; John Cocuzzi, Freddy Cole, Mark Shane, Rossano Sportiello, piano; Ed Metz, Chuck Redd, percussion; Matt Munisteri, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Richard Simon, Frank Tate, bass; John Cocuzzi, Becky Kilgore, Freddy Cole, Francine Reed, Bob Schulz, vocals.

I can already imagine the bands I would like to hear, and one of the nice things about the AJP is that everyone gets a chance to lead sets.  I know who my favorites are and expect to be exhausted by pleasure on Sunday night.

The 23rd AJP will take place at the Westin Atlanta North — clean and friendly — and there will be a cornucopia of hot jazz, tender ballads, and good feeling.  I know from experience.  I guarantee it!

You can purchase tickets here — either online or fill out the form and mail it in.

I believe that the best seats go to those who sign up early . . . so don’t wait for the middle of April to make up your mind.  Here’s a 2011 video with highlights — exuberant ones! — from the AJP:

APRIL IN ATLANTA! (April 20-22, 2012)

You need more for a great party than a football game and nachos.  Remember the guests make the occasion.  And the music . . . .

Just a reminder that the Atlanta Jazz Party is going full speed ahead — the great jazz artists there will include Rebecca Kilgore, Freddy ColeRichard SimonJohn AllredRuss Phillips, Chuck Redd, Harry Allen,Ed Polcer, Bob Schulz, Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, Allan Vaché, , John CocuzziMark ShaneRossano SportielloMatt MunisteriBucky PizzarelliEd Metz Jr..  Add to this the Joe Gransden sixteen-piece big band . . . and you have a Party

I’m already arranging imaginary set listings in my head. 

Visit the AJP website  to learn more, make reservations, to get excited about what’s coming — this, the 23rd AJP.  So they know how to do it correctly to make sure everyone’s glowing.

THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 2012) IS ON THE WAY!

It’s only the beginning of December 2011 but I am fortunate enough to know where I will be on the weekend of April 20-22, 2012.  The 32nd Atlanta Jazz Party!

If you need to ask WHY . . . .

How about this brass section: Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, Ed Polcer, Bob Schulz, John Allred, Russ Phillips; Allan Vache, Harry Allen, reeds; John Cocuzzi, Freddy Cole, Mark Shane, Rossano Sportiello, piano; Ed Metz, Chuck Redd, percussion; Matt Munisteri, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Richard Simon, Frank Tate, bass; John Cocuzzi, Becky Kilgore, Freddy Cole, Ashley Locheed, Bob Schulz, vocals.

I can already imagine the bands I would like to hear, and one of the nice things about the AJP is that everyone gets a chance to lead sets.

It will take place at the Westin Atlanta North — clean and friendly — and there will be a profusion (or perhaps a satiety) of hot jazz, tender ballads, and good feeling.

You can purchase tickets here — either online or fill out the form and mail it in.

My own story is that I have a deeply sentimental attachment to the AJP: the first time I went there was in 2007, because many of my heroes were playing.  I got to meet Eddie Erickson face to face (and of course receive the first of many hugs) and to hear the world-shaking rhythm quartet of Mark Shane, Matt Munisteri, Vince Giordano, and Kevin Dorn.  But I have personal, romantic memories of my Atlanta experience.  I had met the Beloved about three weeks before and recognized that she was far beyond the ordinary.  And of course she liked jazz.  So one of our nice early shared memories was my opening my cellphone during a Becky Kilgore set so that the Beloved could come home, check her voicemail, and hear Miss Kilgore sing ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU.  Right place, right time.  Amor vincit omnia, you cats!

Oh.  I will be bringing my camera, but don’t let that stop you.  I believe that the best seats go to those who sign up early . . . so don’t wait for the end of March to make up your mind.  I didn’t.

And as for the ATLANTA BLUES — I don’t expect to have them at all.  The Westin is very plush: no pallets on the floor for us!

HAPPY NEW EAR, CONTINUED! (Jan. 2, 2011)

The response to the jubilant music played at The Ear Inn on the first Sunday of 2011 was properly enthusiastic — so I went back to the video archives and now offer this exuberant performance of THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE by The EarRegulars (Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, John Allred, Nicki Parrott, and sitter-in [or sitter-down] Chuck Redd, percussively wire-brushing crumbs off the tabletop):

I’m fresh out of laudatory adjectives, so I leave them to my readers — but the agility and empathy here are marvelous. 

Who says that the festivities have to end once the big ball has dropped?  Play on, EarRegulars!