I’ve admired Tamar Korn since I first encountered her at The Ear Inn and as the central spiritual engine of the Cangelosi Cards in 2009. She was a phenomenon then (I did ask her if she really came from our galaxy) and she’s kept on glowing. How to describe her? Passionate comedienne-poet might do for the moment.
Tamar and her Metaphysicians of Delight give us a multi-dimensional lesson in the art of slowing down, of taking it easy. That’s Tamar on vocal and spiritual guidance; Rob Edwards on trombone; Greg Ruby on resonator guitar; Jared Engel on string bass; guest Colin Hancock on hot cornet. Tamar was asked to form a group to fill in for the EarRegulars since leader Jon-Erik Kellso had to be out of town: quite an honor! And thanks to Israel Baline, too.
I feel so much better already. Don’t you? There’s more to come, so stay tuned . . .
Given the sorrow created by the deaths of John Sheridan and Phil Schaap, I felt the need for a different kind of post.
Todd Bryant Weeks, author of the fine biography of Hot Lips Page, LUCK’S IN MY CORNER, sent me the unidentified photograph below. He told me that the sender was a high school friend. “The face looked familiar and I thought he was quizzing me… But in fact it is from an old family scrapbook, and the owner of the scrapbook has passed away recently.” Todd added, “There is little or nothing to go on. The photograph was likely taken between 1950 and 1965 and may well have been taken in Massachusetts, possibly on the campus of Amherst College. The owner of the scrapbook is now deceased and his memory of the photograph was not clear enough to remember the time nor the location.”
Todd thought — and I hope — that some JAZZ LIVES readers might recognize this genial fellow. But beware: not everyone is or was famous.
See below! for a lovely answer to the question, provided by the wise Youngblood Colin Hancock, who knows.
And this just in, from eBay:
I can find nothing on either band.
The two pieces of tantalizing ephemera just remind me of a line from HAMLET: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio / Than are dreamt of in your Jazz History books.”
Or, more seriously, there are always people playing and singing — documented only by a snapshot or perhaps as “Harlem’s Snappiest Night Club Entertainers,” than the books can contain. And that, whether at this distance or just two weeks ago, seems a wonderful thing, that the energetic music we cherish is overflowing its banks all the time, even if Ralph Peer of Victor wasn’t there to offer those bands a contract or no one can recall the banjoist’s name.
Here’s what Colin says about the happy man with the banjo:
The last addition to the Blue Ribbon Syncopators was banjoist Robert ‘Gil’ Roberts. Born on April 5, 1896 in Amherst, MA, he was a descendant of a prominent Black Massachusetts family that had fought in the Civil War as members of the legendary 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and Connecticut 29th Colored Infantry. Roberts took up the banjo at a young age, and eventually found his way to Buffalo’s North side where he met George West and joined the Blue Ribbons. He performed with them on all of their recordings for both Okeh and Columbia. He left the band in 1928, eventually travelling to Europe with “Eubie Blake’s Blackbirds” in the early 1930s. He later went on to perform with Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong, before settling in Boston, then his hometown of Amherst, MA. He lived there working around Amherst College as a handyman, but also serving as a guardian to the limited number of African-American students at the school. He also was an honorary member of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, performing with them for many years. He lived to be 106, passing away peacefully on October 6, 2002.
Roberts was more than a man with a banjo. Take the time to read this, please:
The purveyors of joy were Colin, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal.
I’ve already posted MILENBERG JOYS, BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN, CLARINET MARMALADE, WHISPERING, EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT, and YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT — one pleasure for each day of the week.
Here are two Twenties classics, glorious hot music, the last evidence of what was a stunning evening.
and FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE:
Now. This concert ended (for those who were there) and the nine performances I’ve posted are also, in their own way, glorious yet finite. Suppose you thirst for more of the hot music Colin and friends create? If you live in New York City or nearby, you can visit him on various gigs . . . but you might also want to have a little shiny plastic hour of superb joys for your very own. Hence, I urge you to investigate his new CD on the Rivermont Records label, COLLEGIATE.
and here’s what I had to say about it just a few days ago:
I’ve admired Colin Hancock since 2017, when I heard the first disc by the Original Cornell Syncopators — a group of wonderfully gifted college students who were majoring in everything except music — who romped through Twenties tunes with enthusiasm, vigor, and feeling. They are my living answer to “Jazz is dead.” “Young people only want to play Charlie Parker solos.” “No one under seventy really knows how to play Hot,” and other widely-circulated falsehoods.
I knew that Colin and “the Syncs,” as those in the know, call them, had recorded a new CD for Rivermont Records, its repertoire focused on music composed, played, recorded by Twenties ensembles with connections to college life. From what I know of Colin and a number of his colleagues, I expected that the results would be well-researched and historically accurate, and that I would hear music new to me, played idiomatically. I knew that the results would also be fun, spirited, enthusiastic: playful rather than white-gloves dry reverence. I knew the band would be mostly Youngbloods (with the exception of guest pianist Ed Clute and banjo-guitar master Robbert VanRenesse) that they would be ethnically diverse, with women as well as men sharing the limelight as instrumentalists as well as singers.
Yesterday I had errands to do, so I brought the disc with me to play in my car — my mobile studio — and I was astonished by how compelling it was, how fine — well beyond my already high expectations. I know it’s an oxymoron, but the words “ferocious polish” kept coming to my mind as I listened, and if you’d seen me at a red light, you’d wonder why that driver was grinning and nodding his head in time. I hadn’t read the notes (a forty-page booklet, with contributions by Julio Schwarz-Andrade, Colin, Hannah Krall, Andy Senior, Bryan Wright) and had only a vague idea of the repertoire, so in some ways I was the ideal listener, ready to hear the music without the historical apparatus and the assumptions it would necessarily impose.
I will write here what another reviewer would save as the closing “pull quote”: if you take any pleasure in the music that was American pop — not just hot jazz — before the Second World War, you will delight in COLLEGIATE.
You can hear selections from the recording, purchase a CD or download the music here. There are tastes from COLLEGIATE, MAPLE LEAF RAG, CONGAINE, ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP, CATARACT RAG BLUES, SAN, PERUNA, EVERY EVENING, SICK O’LICKS, IF I’M WITHOUT YOU — songs whose names will conjure up Twenties joys, Earl Hines, Jimmie Noone, Scott Joplin, and the ODJB . . but other songs and performances have connections to Ted Weems, Hal Kemp, Curtis Hitch, the Princeton Triangle Club Jazz Band, Jimmie Lunceford, the Cornell Collegians, Zach Whyte’s Chocolate Beau Brummels, Charlie Davis, Stu Pletcher and Carl Webster’s Yale Collegians.
What’s so good about it? The selections are beautifully played — with joy and spirit — and expansively recorded. When the whole ensemble gets going (and do they ever!) I thought I was listening to what the Paul Whiteman Orchestra must have sounded like in its heroic orchestral glory: the band and the recording have expansive life. And the solos are lyrical as well as hot, fully “in the idiom.” A good deal of this music has its roots in the Middle West rather than the South . . . so even though it may strike people who revere Louis as I do as heresy, the disc is delightful living proof that other, convincing, kinds of hot improvised music were being played and sung that owed little to Armstrongiana except for ingenuity and rhythmic enthusiasm.
I think of it as a good-natured rebuke to another stereotype, that “collegiate jazz” of the Twenties was primarily groups of young men jamming on pop tunes and originals of the day — I think of Squirrel Ashcraft and his friends, and it’s true that this CD has a goodly share of small-band hot . . . but that oversimplification is rather like saying that the Twenties = flappers, flivvers, and raccoon coats. The research that Colin and others have done results in a presentation that is imaginative and expansive: the twenty performances here are a kind of aesthetic kaleidoscope, all of it coming from similar syncopated roots but with delightfully varied results. No cliches.
And maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but the music produced by college students and graduates a hundred years later has a kind of spiritual authenticity. There is a good deal of thin, fragile “authenticity” out there among people attempting to play “vintage” music: this recording is real, both grounded and soaring.
The ensembles are wonderfully cohesive: that the players aren’t full-time musicians is something amazing. And there are vocal trios. I want nothing more. Everyone here is magna cum laude. And there was, as trumpeter-vocalist Lior Kreindler says in the video, marveling, “magic going on.”
Music like this nourishes the soul, so it’s not surprising that many jazz classics are — actually or metaphorically — connected to food. Here are three stirring examples. Dig in!
HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN, in honor of Freddie Keppard:
Albanie Falletta and Arnt Arntzen have fun with BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, thinking of Louis and May Alix:
And Colin’s second foray into that new technology: CLARINET MARMALADE, two ways:
Those are the basic food groups: ingest these portions of joy and you’ll have your hot nourishment for today. And in case you missed the previous spiritual sustenance from that evening, here it is:
and even more:
And — this just in, from Colin, whom I am honored to say is a pal — news of a Father’s Day gig: “It’s myself on cornet and reeds, Ricky Alexander on more reeds, Josh Dunn on guitar (and maybe banjo), and Julian Johnson on drums and washboard. Gonna be doing some hot Jimmie Noone style stuff as well as just a bunch of good old good ones! 1-3 at Freehold in the Park, on the North side of Union Square.” That’s Greenwich Village, New York. Details (and reservations) here.
Here is some more of the uplifting music performed on June 10 at the Morris Museum by my hero-friends, purveyors of joy: Colin Hancock, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal.
WHISPERING, with a perfectly idiomatic and swinging vocal by Mike Davis:
Good advice about monogamous high-fidelity: YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT (OR YOU CAN’T SEE MAMA AT ALL):
And Bennie Moten’s EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT, which does:
In case you missed it the first time around, here’s MILENBERG JOYS — live, then on “the wonder of the age,” the new-fangled phonograph:
Above is my ecstatic review of the whole concert, and there’s still more to come. “What a night!” as we say.
It was a wonderful evening, and this post is simply to say so — a review of the Broadway opening the next morning — and to share the joys. The event, to give it its official title, was SOUNDS OF THE JAZZ AGE with COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT, and it was held on the back deck of the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, overseen by the very kind and efficient Brett Messenger.
The purveyors of joy were Colin, trumpet, tenor saxophone, and imagination; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Troy Anderson, tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Davis, cornet, trombone, mouthpiece, vocal; Julian Johnson, drums; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Arnt Arntzen, banjo, guitar, vocal. The scope of the program was narrow in time — perhaps 1920-1928 — but transcontinentally and stylistically broad. Arranged passages sat neatly next to explosive hot improvisations; dance-band melodies, “hot dance” rhythms, and small-band ecstasies nestled comfortably against the setting sun as they did in real life Jazz Age dance halls, speakeasies, malt shoppes, and recording studios.
They started off with FIDGETY FEET, with no lesson in sight, except to demonstrate, “We are here to play lively living music,” and they succeeded. Next, Art Hickman’s pretty 1920 standard ROSE ROOM, its origin in San Francisco, which has had a long life, both in its own clothing and as IN A MELLOTONE — displaying a lovely passage scored for two saxophones, in this case Dan and Troy. Someone wandering by might have thought, “This is tea-dance music,” but it had a hot pulse with rocking solos, and the genre-sliding was more than entertaining. From Hickman, Colin moved to the great star of Twenties music — call it and him what you will — Paul Whiteman — for an idiomatic and swinging WHISPERING with a patented crooning chorus by Mike Davis. I know this sentence is unsubtle, but Colin and his Eight made no artificial distinctions between “sweet” music as played by white bands and “hot” music played by their black counterparts, acknowledging without lecturing us that there was no dividing line between the two.
Colin then nodded to the great Twenties phenomenon of recordings of the blues and bent that definition to include a jolly YOU’VE GOTTA SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT, which is, after all, good advice, if Mama wants all that attention. Bennie Moten’s frolicsome EIGHTEENTH STREET STRUT and LOUISIANA, subtle homage to both Whiteman and Beiderbecke, followed — the band hitting on all cylinders, the audience enthusiastic, the sky darkening (as it should) and the stage lighting properly illuminating the players.
I can’t have been the only one in the audience who was hungry (it had been a long ride to Morristown) so I was happy to hear two songs about food, however indirectly: the Keppard-flavored HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN and Louis’ Hot Five I WANT A BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, with hilarious vocals by Albanie and Arnt. Vince sang THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE in a truly hot version (Dan evoked Frank Teschemacher) that summoned up the Austin High Gang. In honor of Red Nichols and the whole tradition of Sam Lanin, there was FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE.
A “Jazz Age” concert typically would end with a lengthy rousing closer — this one took a slightly different turn, with fairly brief (although searing) renditions of MILENBERG JOYS and CLARINET MARMALADE not only played but recorded on the spot on a vintage phonograph — and the records played back on the spot. It was a wonderful demonstration of the new technology, great hot music (we applauded the live rendition, we applauded the record) and wonderful theatre.
I won’t praise every musician — you will hear for yourself — but the patriarchs of Twenties jazz were cheered and inspired by the youngbloods on the stand. And Colin (whose solos were intense and incendiary) found ways to show the depth and breadth of this music, avoiding the overused repertoire (no DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, for one) and sketching in a vast panorama of joyous sounds that moved all around the country and also — without slighting him — said politely, “Louis Armstrong brought his own way to play, but not everyone went in his direction all the time.”
Here’s MILENBERG JOYS, which shows off the band and Colin’s easy scholarship — history made alive and in delighted motion. I’ve edited the video so you at home don’t have to sit through the necessary non-musical portions. What a show!
The Morris Museum had held concerts on the Back Deck through the pandemic, cheers to them, so the singles and couples last night in their lawn chairs had a good deal of space. It was easy for me to imagine the heroic shades of the past — Louis and Jimmy Joy, Art Hickman and Jack Pettis, Red Nichols and Miff Mole, Sam Lanin and Ben Selvin, Ikey Robinson and Kaiser Marshall, George Johnson and Vic Berton, Adrian Rollini and Freddie Keppard, Eva Taylor and Clarence Williams, all the cats from the ODJB and the NORK, Bix and Tram, Bennie Moten and May Alix and a hundred others, comfortable in lawn chairs, grinning their faces off at the living energized evocation of the music they made about a hundred years ago.
“The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”
Were you there to share the joys? I hope so. Bless Colin, Vince, Dan, Troy, Mike, Julian, Albanie, Arnt — the heroes among us — and the enthusiastic audience.
And yes, there will be more videos. But . . . if you want more concerts, you have to leave your house.
I can’t speak for everyone, but the fourteen-month period after mid-March 2020 felt for me like a) being locked in the basement with very dim lighting; b) a dinner-theatre production of RIP VAN WINKLE; c) induced coma with meals, phone calls, and my computer; d) a long undefined stretch during which I could watch uplifting videos here; d) all of the above.
But I feel as if spiritual Reveille has sounded, and the way I know that is that live music has been more out-in-the-open than before. (I mean no offense to those gallant souls who swung out in the parks for months.) I’ve been to see and hear the EarRegulars three times in front of the Ear Inn on Sundays (1-3:30, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) and if the sun shines, I will be there this coming Sunday to say hello to heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, and Tal Ronen; I am going to the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 10, at 8 PM, to see Colin Hancock and his Red Hot Eight with Dan Levinson, Abanie Falletta, Arnt Arntzen, Vince Giordano, Mike Davis, Julian Johnson, and Troy Anderson (details here). On June 13 I am driving to Pennsylvania (thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society) to see and hear Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Joe Plowman, Pat Mercuri, and Jim Lawlor (details here).
And, one week later, June 17 — Evan Arntzen and Jon-Erik Kellso, with Dalton Ridenhour, Tal Ronen, and Mark McLean, playing music from the new Arntzen-Kellso dazzler, the CD COUNTERMELODY. Details here. Important, rewarding, exciting.
First, Bennie Moten’s 18th STREET STRUT:
and this, with the verse, no less:
Now, some words of encouragement. Some of you will understandably say, “I live too far away, the pandemic is not over, and Michael will go there in my stead and bring his video camera.” Some of that is true, although I am taking a busman’s holiday and do not expect to video Evan’s concert, for contractual reasons. (And even Michael knows, although he does not wallow in this truth, that a video is not the same thing as being there.)
I know it’s tactless to write these words, but wouldn’t you like to experience some music that isn’t on this lit rectangle? More fun, and everyone is larger. And you can, after the music is over, approach the musicians and say, “We love you. Thank you for continuing on your holy quest where we can be uplifted by it. Thank you for your devotion.” If this strikes you as presumptuous, I apologize, and the Customer Service Associate will be happy to refund your purchase price plus tax.
I hope to see you out and about. We need to celebrate the fact of our re-emergence into the sunshine.
Many compact discs are like visits to a new restaurant with a tasting menu. The listener has course after course brought to them, and with luck, every dish is not only delightful in itself but part of a larger experience. And one makes a mental note to go back and bring friends. Sometimes, of course, one beckons to the waitperson and says, “Please, can we skip ahead? I’m not happy with this. If you’d just bring me the flourless chocolate cake and the check, that would be great.” And the CD goes into that purgatory between give-to-a-friend-or-the-thrift-store-or keep-for-the-moment-but-not-forever.
The new CD, COUNTERMELODY (Dot Time Records), by Evan Arntzen and esteemed friends, isn’t a meal: it’s a brightly-colored, many-sided journey. Details here and here if the names above have already convinced you.
Before you read a word more, two samples which will reveal much and reward more:
SOLITARITY, by Evan:
and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, sung by Catherine Russell:
Although the terms “old” and “new” are dangerously weighted and too binary, COUNTERMELODY is a shining showcase for “old” music (nearly a hundred years old) played as “new,” and “new” music that passionately embraces “old” traditions. SOLITARITY is delightfully weird — that’s a compliment — but it also sounds so much like a New Orleans funeral, mournful and exultant at once. And to borrow from Billy Wilder, each of the musicians here has a face, a vivid, glowing singularity — a set of big voices, and I don’t simply mean Catherine Russell’s combination of trumpet and cello and full orchestra. Speaking of singers, Evan’s vocal rendition of GEORGIA CABIN is perfectly dreamy. I don’t want him to put down his horns, but he could do a lovely vocal album.
But back to the journey I was describing. The CD begins with a half-dozen “traditional” songs — MUSKRAT RAMBLE, 18th STREET STRUT, CAMP MEETING BLUES, GEORGIA CABIN, PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES, and WHEN ERASTUS PLAYS HIS OLD KAZOO. Connoisseurs will check off the homages to Ory, Moten, Oliver, Bechet, Louis, and Dodds. But these are not formulaic choices. They come from a deep immersion in the repertoire and a desire to do the music homage in its full glory, not in the eleven tunes that everyone plays. The performances are totally energized but also respectful of the original outlines of the songs and of performance practice. The ensembles are strong (having two trumpets who can kitten-tussle in mid-air is a great thing) and the solos fierce or fiercely tender.
Then, SMILES, usually played and sung with a certain amount of sentimentality, whether it’s by Charles La Vere or Chick Bullock: the musical equivalent of a 1925 Valentine’s postcard, cherubs and hearts crowding in. But not here:
That’s two minutes and thirty-four seconds of exuberance. My initial reaction was “WHAT?!” But I was properly smiling as Evan and Charlie chased each other around the backyard, twin five-year olds who have eaten too much Halloween candy. Honoring the innovators implies a certain amount of possibly-disrespectful but loving innovation: the result is immensely restorative. While my nerve endings were still tingling, I had the rare pleasure of hearing Catherine Russell sing IF YOU WERE MINE as no one, including Billie, ever sang it, complete with the verse, which I’d never heard. A properly churchy DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE follows, then originals by Halloran, Kellso, Benny Green, and Evan . . . and the disc concludes with two brief cylinder recordings of AFTER YOU’VE GONE and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, created by the band and the master of hot archaisms, Colin Hancock.
After that, I wanted a glass of ice water, and, after a pause, to play COUNTERMELODY again, and tell my friends, as I am doing here.
So don’t be the last one on your block to walk around humming and grinning because of COUNTERMELODY. You can receive it in its lovely package (fine notes by producer Scout Opatut) or digitally, here or here.
Postscript: someone said of me, with an edge, “Michael only writes good reviews,” to which I responded, when I heard, “I only review good music.” COUNTERMELODY is over the moon and beyond the beyonds in that way.
The chorus begins, “Words that seem so tender / Words of sweet surrender,” so you can invent the rest of this 1924 song — by Al Dubin, Al Tucker, and Otis Spencer — on your own. I have to improvise as well, because the complete sheet music has eluded me so far.
Most of us, if we know the song at all, know the Fletcher Henderson acoustic Vocalion recording where youthful Louis Armstrong explodes into his chorus, backed by an equally stirring Kaiser Marshall, or perhaps later evocations.
Here is a very remarkable “modern” (i.e., 2019) recording of the song that only a few listeners have made friends with — by the Hill Country Dance Orchestra, a band you won’t find in Brian Rust’s books. Listen and marvel:
Hot enough for you? “Authentic” enough for you? Yes, on both counts.
What’s most remarkable is that the Hill Country Dance Orchestra — its personnel two cornets, trombone, two alto saxophones, baritone saxophone, C-melody saxophone, clarinet, violin, banjo, piano, tuba, drums — is both a discographer’s dream and nightmare, because of this young brilliance, Colin Hancock from Texas (and now studying in New York City):
My more attentive readers might be saying, “But I don’t understand. Which instrument does Colin play on this recording?” And then I would respond, with the appropriate emphasis. “ALL OF THEM.” The magic of modern technology; the exuberance and accuracy of a great artist.
I’ll wait while you return to listen to this marvel once again.
And here is Colin’s newest band, his Signature Seven, rollicking through I’M GONNA STOMP MISTER HENRY LEE and DOWN HOME RAG:
Colin’s noble roisterers (he’s playing cornet) are Jeffery Miller, trombone; Daniel Dickinson, alto saxophone, clarinet; Troy Anderson, tenor saxophone; Juan Vidaurre, banjo; Isaiah Thompson, piano; Julian Johnson, drums.
Great music. Tell your friends. Wake the children. No one will want to say, “I wasn’t paying attention when Colin Hancock and friends were making glorious sounds.”
And you can get a direct line to the new / old sounds by subscribing to Colin’s YouTube channel SemperPhonographCo here. (Why wait?)
Souvenirs of a brilliant weekend, even though many of us did not make it to the Village Hotel, Newcastle, for this Party, held annually in November, bringing together wonderful European, British, and American musicians. Three v.hot selections from the last jam session of the Party, captured for us by Chris Jonsson, the nattily dressed fellow next to Anne-Christine Persson in the photo. I know them as “Chris and Chris” on YouTube, they are neatly CANDCJ:
Here’s CHRIS and CHRIS
I’M GONNA STOMP MISTER HENRY LEE (I prefer the version without the comma, but grammarians who wish to explicate this title may email me):
Andy Schumm, clarinet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Dave Bock, tuba; Josh Duffee, drums; Torstein Kubban, trumpet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet; Stephane Gillot, alto saxophone; Jacob Ullberger, banjo.
Colin Hancock, cornet, and Henry Lemaire, string bass, come in for Gillot and Bock, and Graham Hughes sings MAMA’S GONE, GOOD-BYE (splendidly!):
and, finally, MILENBERG JOYS, with Boeddinghaus, Hancock, Kubban, Duffee, Ullberger, Lemaire, Lars Frank, clarinet . . . and if I am not mistaken, Torstein essays his own version of Louis’ Hot Chorus here, magnificently:
I would have expected more violent approval, but it was after 2 AM.
A word about my title. What, you might ask, is “v. hot“? It’s an inside joke for those of us — including percussion wizard Nicholas D. Ball, who have visited the Village Hotel in Newcastle with any regularity: a meant-to-be-terribly-cute advertising gimmick:
and a different view:
When I was there last in 2016, the elevator (sorry, the lift) had inside it a glossy photo of a larger-than-life young woman and the words “v. snuggly” or some such. We joked about this, and wondered if the toilets in each room were labeled “v. flushy” or the pizza “v. costly.” And so on. But nothing can take away from the jam session, which was indeed “v.hot.” Bless the musicians and both Chrisses (Christer and Anne-Christine) too.
I admire the Chicago Cellar Boys immensely, as JAZZ LIVES readers have seen since their inception in 2017, and I’ve been privileged to see and hear them in person (the most recent time just a day ago at the Juvae Jazz Mini-Fest in Decatur, Illinois . . . more from that occasion soon). I also hear that their debut CD is on the way.
Their virtues are considerable. They are that most glorious entity, a working band with beautiful arrangements, hot or sweet, wonderful solo and ensemble playing. But something that may not catch the listeners’ attention quickly is the breadth of their repertoire — visible in the thick black binders brought to the stage. Every CCB set has several tunes in it that I’ve known only as obscure recordings or ones I’ve never heard at all, and when they perform a “chestnut,” it is beautifully alive in its own idiomatic shape. They are: Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Dave Bock, tuba. And here are six delights from the 39th San Diego Jazz Fest, performed on November 25, 2018.
First, a charming 1929 exclamation of delight:
and something cosmological from the same year, by Phil Baxter. Feel free to sing the special aviation-themed lyrics as the Cellar Boys soar lyrically:
Here’s Andy’s superbly indefatigable reading of the Johnny Dodds showcase, LITTLE BITS:
and a reading of THE SHEIK OF ARABY that owes more to Rudolph Valentino than to Hot Lips Page, but I don’t mind at all:
I’ve already posted the two videos below, but these exercises in spontaneous combustion, Chicago-style, deserve multiple watchings. Don’t be afraid to cheer! (As I write this, the first video has been seen 591 times. One person took the trouble to “dislike” it. What a pity, Sir!) Here the youthful multi-instrumentalist Colin Hancock sits in on cornet with the Cellar Boys (Andy switches to clarinet) and the results are ferocious:
Finally, a rousing WEARY BLUES:
I promise you there will be more of the Chicago Cellar Boys “while breath lasts,” as my dear benefactor Harriet Sheehy used to say. For now, enjoy the sweet heat.
It’s January, and the temperatures are, shall we say, brisk. Let’s assume your house has drafts — air pours through windows and air-conditioners — or it’s simply not that warm inside. You could buy this to solve the problem:
or, in honor of the King of Swing, you could put on a sweater (credit to CLEO of Kildare Street, Dublin, Ireland):
But I have a more immediate solution, one that won’t require you to wait several days for a product to be shipped. That is, you could invite — through cyberspace — Colin Hancock and the Chicago Cellar Boys over for a visit. You can learn more about Colin, a tremendously gifted multi-instrumentalist, arranger, vocalist, bandleader, and scholar here, or on this blog here. Colin was at the 39th San Diego Jazz Fest this past November with the Original Cornell Syncopators, and you will see some videos from their performances shortly. But the Chicago Cellar Boys were also there — Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, saxophone; John Otto, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, guitar, banjo; Dave Bock, tuba. Learn more about them here or on the blog herealso.
At the San Diego Jazz Fest, there were two bright shining moments — Hot Camelot, if you will — when Colin sat in with the Chicago Cellar Boys and magic ensued. See if the room temperature doesn’t rise.
SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, for the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and the Chicagoans (and https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/the-latest-prance-words-and-music/ is the music and lyrics for that intoxicating 1917 melody):
WEARY BLUES, for Johnny Dodds and Louis and generations to come:
It feels like May now, thanks to these great hot spirits.
Even in the midst of darkness there are always reasons to be thankful. Here is a detail from the classic Norman Rockwell portrait of a late-November American celebration, make of it and its assumptions (culinary, sociological, political) what you will.
But this post is about another ritual of communal gratitude, another place to give thanks: the thirty-ninth San Diego Jazz Fest, held this year from November 21 through the 25th. My update (as of late November 11) is to offer the flyer below, and to point out something I didn’t know when I’d written this blogpost — that the Saturday night Swing Extravaganza will also feature the wonderful band Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders with the wonderful singer Laura Windley. Add that piece of news into your computations.
I’m sitting here with the band schedule in front of me, and can narrate my own pleasure-map of delights for the weekend. How about dance lessons, opportunities for “jammers” to play with others of their ilk, a Saturday night swing extravaganza? Ongoing solo piano recitals featuring Kris Tokarski, Vinnie Armstrong, Stephanie Trick, Carl Sonny Leyland, Conal Fowkes, Paolo Alderighi, Paul Asaro, Marty Eggers, Virginia Tichenor? Then sets by the Dawn Lambeth Trio featuring Marc Caparone, High Sierra, Grand Dominion, the Chicago Cellar Boys, the On the Levee Jazz Band, the Original Cornell Syncopators, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, Katie Cavera, Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Yerba Buena Stompers, Titanic, Colin Hancock, Charlie Halloran, Ben Polcer, Joe Goldberg, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Andy Schumm, John Otto, Leon Oakley, Tom Bartlett, and more.
And more. At any given moment at the fest, let us say on a Saturday, the music goes from breakfast to wooziness — 9 AM to near midnight — in six separate locations. Using my right index finger (the highly-skilled instrument for such computations) I counted sixty-six sets of music on Saturday, sets either 45 minutes or an hour.
At other festivals, that would make for transportation difficulties (a euphemism for “How am I going to get to that other building before the band starts?) but since all the action is contained in one building, even people with limited mobility make it in before the music starts.
Did I mention that everyone I’ve ever dealt with at San Diego has been terribly nice, including such luminaries of cheer and comfort as Paul Daspit and Gretchen Haugen? This is no small thing.
And for those of you who think you will be deprived of Thanksgiving edibles (which means “too much food”) as depicted by Mr. Rockwell above, take heart. There is a splendiferous buffet served on Thursday from 2 to 6 — you can reserve a place there, with a discount for those who do so before November 15: details here. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll still totter out of there, quite stuffed.
I am a late adopter who hasn’t made all 38 festivals (to explain why would tax all your five wits) but when I did make my way to the Fest, of course it was video camera at the ready. And here are three sets that pleased me greatly. I have shot several hundred videos, and that’s no stage joke, but I don’t feel right about using videos of X if X isn’t at this year’s festival. But the three sets below feature people who are alive and well for this year. First, hereare the Cornell Syncopators featuring Katie Cavera in 2017. Then, hereare the Yerba Buena Stompers in 2016, and hereare Marc Caparone and Conal Fowkes paying tribute to Louism also in 2017.
Going back to 2009, I remember when I first started this blog, I used Rae Ann Berry’s videos as glimpses of the Promised Land. Here, for example, is John Gill paying tribute, beautifully, to Mister Crosby, in 2009:
Why am I concluding this post with PENNIES FROM HEAVEN and John’s beautiful rendition? It seems an obvious message as far as the San Diego Jazz Fest is concerned, this year or in years to come. Good things are coming, the lyrics say, but you can’t hide under a tree. If you bestir yourself on Monday, November 26, you’ll have to wait a whole year for this opportunity to be grateful amidst friends and lovely heated music. Take a look here and you will be glad you did. See you there.
You might know the inspiring exhortation, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The quite remarkable Colin Hancock has put his own inventive spin on that, and I imagine “Be the music you want to hear!” is his motto. I’ve written about Colin and his Original Cornell Syncopators as they appeared at the San Diego Jazz Fest last year (dig in here) and they will be appearing in San Diego again this November: make plans here!
And I had the pleasure of seeing the larger unit in New York very recently: hot evidence here.
Colin Hancock by 2E Photography
But this post is not about the wonderful young people who make up Colin’s bands. All respect to them, no. This post is about Colin, the one, the only. The dazzling multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer and Imaginer, the young man who gets inside the music rather than copying its most obvious features.
Over the summer, Colin made some records. That might not raise an intrigued eyebrow until you learn that he plays all the instruments on these records (and sings on one), that they are brilliantly loving evocations of time, place, and style, with no artificial ingredients. They aren’t tricks or stunts: they are MUSIC.
There is, of course, a tradition of one-man-band records: Sidney Bechet for Victor, Humphrey Lyttelton’s ONE MAN WENT TO BLOW, and more — but Colin’s are deeper and more thoughtfully lovely than simply ways to show off multiple expertises. What he’s done is make beautiful little alternative universes: imagine if __________ band had played ___________: what would it sound like? Some bands have no single historical antecedents: they exist only in his wide imagination. And the results are amazing on their own terms: play one, without identifying it, for a hot jazz fan, and see what she says; play one for a deeply scholarly hot jazz fan and hear the encomia, because the music is just right, imaginative as well as idiomatically wise.
Here’s an example, evoking Johnny Dunn’s Jazz Hounds:
a splendid visit to Red Hot Chicago:
and a tender creation honoring Bix, Tram, Lang, and their circle, casting admiring side-glances at Benny and Jimmy McP:
finally (for this post) a frolic, Mister Hancock on the vocal chorus:
You can hear more of Colin’s startling magic on his YouTube channel here. And there’s a brand-new interview of this wondrous trickster here.
Fats Waller would have called Colin “a solid sender” or perhaps “a killer-diller from Manila!” but I think, perhaps more sedately, of Colin as someone who likes to imagine aural parties and then generously invites all to join him. What gifts!
Enthusiasm, precision, and love are qualities that the Original Cornell Syncopators brought to their New York debut at the Triad Theater on West 72nd Street.
“Direct from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, your favorite collegiates, the Original Cornell Syncopators, bring you Hot Jazz from the 1920s and 30s to the Triad Theater! Music includes songs by King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Paul Specht, The Original Prague Syncopated Orchestra, Bennie Moten and more!”
This joyous young band is not only curious about where the music we love came from, but righteously works to make sure it doesn’t get dusty. They delve into “all of jazz’s earliest forms, from its first recorded sounds, to the roots of Swing and beyond.”
Can you tell I admire and love this band and that it was a joy to see and hear them in Manhattan? (I’ll see them again — and you can too — at the San Diego Jazz Fest. You could come, too.)
Here are four of my rather informal videos: Colin tells me that professional videos and a CD issue of this concert are coming . . . a great pleasure.
The “Syncs,” as they jovially call themselves, are Colin Hancock, cornet, clarinet, vocals; Lior Kreindler, trumpet, vocals; Dave Connelly, trumpet; Rishi Verma, trombone; Kieran Loehr, alto saxophone, clarinet; Stephen Newcomb, alto and baritone saxophone, clarinet; Troy Anderson, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Clare Burhenne, tenor and baritone saxophone, vocals; Uche Chukwukere, violin;
Robbert Van Renesse, banjo, guitar, vocals; Christina Li, piano; Noah Li, drums;
Sarah Cohn-Manick, tuba. And, remarkably, not one of them is majoring in music at Cornell . . . so they have (as we say) other strings to their bow.
I WONDER WHAT’S BECOME OF JOE sports a fervent vocal by Clare and superb ensemble work by the OCS:
SWEET LIKE THIS is a melancholy 1929 King Oliver rumination:
ECCENTRIC summons up the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, always welcome:
And BLUE (or BLUE AND BROKENHEARTED) is homage to the Goodman – McPartland hot ballad:
This just in! SYNCS TAKE TO THE PARK! (Who said jazz musicians are solely nocturnal?)
I first encountered the Original Cornell Syncopators at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest, where “they blew me away” with their joyous enthusiasm and fierce determination to get it right while having a good time. Here they are with our friend Katie Cavera sitting in, and here is a second helping. Since some of the original members graduated from Cornell in the interim, I had worries that the OCS would have been a brilliant Hot supernova, streaking once only across the sky. I needn’t have worried.
In the fashion of the great bandleaders he adores, the multi-talented Colin Hancock has recruited a whole new crop of brilliant young people to play the music most convincingly . . . and the OCS is embarked on its East Coast tour, with a New York City gig coming up.
And here’s a recent — and very moving example: their version of the King Oliver / Dave Nelson SWEET LIKE THIS, with a guest appearance by the remarkable pianist Ed Clute.
In this video, the OCS (or, as Colin calls them, the “Syncs”) are Colin Hancock, cornet, arranger, director; Lior Kreindler, trumpet; David Connelly, trumpet; Uche Chukwukere, violin; Rishi Verma, trombone; Kieran Loehr, alto, clarinet; Stephen Newcomb, alto, baritone, clarinet; Troy Anderson, tenor, clarinet; Robbert Van Renesse, banjo; Christina Li, piano; Sarah Cohn-Manick, tuba; Noah Li, drums; special guest Edward Clute, piano:
I find that simple melody completely haunting, and hear a whole generation of melancholy music in it — parallel with some of 1928 Louis and forward to 1940 Duke. A true tone-painting, rendered so soulfully by the Syncopators.
This Friday, September 28, the OCS will play a ninety-minute concert at the Triad Theater (158 West 72nd Street, New York City) from 7 to 8:30: details here. I suggest that if you are interested in seeing this phenomenon, you look into buying tickets. As I remember it — from my Upper West Side days — the Triad is not a huge space. But it will be filled to the rafters with love, heat, and enthusiasm.
Spring hasn’t yet arrived in New York, so here’s some pleasant warming: more from the Original Cornell Syncopators at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest, hot performances of rare music.
These Bright Sparks — college students of 20 and 21, intelligent and enthusiastic — play a kind of hot jazz that’s rarely heard these days. And they play it with love. They’re the Original Cornell Syncopators, led by multi-instrumentalist Colin Hancock. This is their five-piece incarnation, with Colin on cornet and vocal, Hannah Krall on clarinet and saxophones, Rishi Verma on trombone, Amit Mizrahi on piano, and Noah Li on drums.
If you didn’t catch them at San Diego, here is the second set I recorded, on the 26th, with Katie Cavera sitting in. And this post also has information about how you can purchase their debut CD, WILD JAZZ.
But to the hot music of November 24:
Colin introduces the band, humorously:
STEADY ROLL BLUES:
FRANKIE AND JOHNNIE BLUES:
SHAVE ‘EM DRY BLUES:
THAT SWEET SOMETHING, DEAR:
Hot times and good sounds. I don’t think the OCS has a regular gig schedule for the moment (Colin is off studying in Italy) but I look forward to reunions, merchandise, fan clubs in major cities, the PBS documentary, and more.
NEWS FLASH! This just in from Hannah Krall: “As to the current activities of the Original Cornell Syncopators, we are preparing for a performance at Cornell and a clinic with Wynton Marsalis at the end of the month.” Great news for sure.
The Original Cornell Syncopators, relaxing at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest.
They’re college students — 20 and 21 — they’re very intelligent and enthusiastic — and they play a kind of hot jazz that’s rarely heard these days. And they play it with love. They’re the Original Cornell Syncopators, led by multi-instrumentalist Colin Hancock. This is their five-piece incarnation, with Colin on cornet and vocal, Hannah Krall on clarinet and saxophones, Rishi Verma on trombone, Amit Mizrahi on piano, and Noah Li on drums. For this Sunday afternoon set at the San Diego Jazz Fest, they were also graced by Katie Cavera, banjo and vocal, who has graduated from her own college and now teaches by exuberant example.
The Syncopators have a special place in my heart because they are exploring different areas of hot improvised jazz that are usually neglected. I revere Louis, but this band is curious about kinds of hot jazz that are not heavily Louis-influenced; they often concentrate on bands from the Middle West: all of this is enlightening and their playing has that delightful youthful zest, the way the music must have sounded when it was brand-new, say, in 1924.
WHO CAN YOUR REGULAR BE, BLUES:
Here‘s a very recent profile of leader Colin Hancock, an intriguing artist and a good fellow in the bargain. And hereis the band’s Facebook page. The band has just released its debut CD — the cover below — which offers not only the quintet but the twelve-piece dance band and several other combos in between. I’ve heard a few tracks and it’s marvelous. So far, I think it is available on Spotify and iTunes, and a physical disc is in the works. Details here.
I admire these young musicians tremendously, and think you will also.
I’ve gotten into trouble for saying this, but I’m not always enthusiastic about note-for-note recreations of recordings. But what follows — music and dance from the Original Cornell Syncopators — has such energy, wit, and life force that I just might have to change my mind. The OCS, led by multi-instrumentalist and wizard Colin Hancock, is Noah Li, drums; Hannah Krall, clarinet; Amit Mizrahi, piano; Rishi Verma, trombone. Their director is Joe Salzano; their “coaches” are Dan Levinson, Hal Smith, and David Sager, so you know — even before you hear a note — that they’re all on the right path. And then there’s the splendidly mobile Crazeology Dance Troupe. I might have to visit Ithaca, New York.
Incidentally, the detailed and articulate description underneath the first video answers all the questions you had and some you didn’t know you did but are glad they are answered.
DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL is often approached far too quickly: this version is both percussive and lyrical:
BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA has been worn to a nub, but this version allows us to hear it again, afresh (with a few of the original chord changes, which now sound unusual):
Most of us hear OSTRICH WALK through Bix and his Gang: this is what Bix and friends heard:
You’d better dig this JASS BAND BALL is what I say:
How deliciously heretical this music must have sounded a century ago; how refreshing it sounds today. Thank you, Creative Youngbloods! (And the OCS have other projects in mind — I suggest you subscribe to the appropriate YouTube channel for hours of satisfying and thought-provoking music. You could dance to it, I’m told, as well.