Tag Archives: Columbia University

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.

LUCY’S SECRETS

If you saw this young woman on the street, you would think, “She has a nice smile,” but you might not know that she has several secret lives.

All will be revealed about Lucy Weinman in this post.  She doesn’t have multiple-personality disorder, her own lingerie business, nor a quiz show with Garry Moore.  Her Columbia University transcript would show that she is majoring in biology, is a research fellow at the Kelley Lab — far beyond the high school biology I knew.  You might also encounter her as an enthusiastic swing dancer at a number of venues or a delighted audience member at jazz concerts by people like Dennis Lichtman and Gordon Au.

But this is how I first encountered Lucy.  In full flight and in good company — with Dennis Lichtman and Chloe Feoranzo, Kevin Dorn and other notable souls:

Notice the trumpet attached to our Miss Weinman.  To quote Eddie Condon, she owns it and she plays it.  In fact, Lucy is a really impressive hot trumpeter with a large sound, a truly swinging conception, and a good deal of spice.  She, Jeff Weinman (guitarist / pianist / and also Lucy’s father) and Miss Cherry Delight (vocals) make up the Big Tent Jazz Band with a variety of ringers and sitters-in.  Their Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Cherry-Delight-and-The-Big-Tent-Jazz-Band/343542389217?v=info&sk=info.

That should be enough.  BIO WHIZ GIRL ALSO HOT TRUMPETER would be a nifty headline on an imagined newspaper in a Thirties movie.  But Lucy has more surprises for us.

One is the Columbia University Semi-Formal Swing Dance — coming up on December 9, 2011.  Here (in excited prose I didn’t dare edit) are the details:

CU Swing Dance – This Joint is Jumpin’
: a stompin’ swing dance fiesta featuring New York’s own Grand Street Stompers. Feel-good New Orleans jazz, lovely dancing, lovelier company, and good times will abound. Show up in your semi-finest attire and stretch out those hamstrings cause THIS JOINT’S GONNA BE JUMPIN’!
How it’s gonna go down:
8:30- 9pm – A beginner swing dance lesson provided by CU Swing Dance (No prior experience or partner necessary, ya dig? You got no excuse!)
9pm-12am – The band JUMPS and so do we. It’s that simple.
CUID holders: $8
Non-CUID: $10
*The Grand St. Stompers is a swinging-hot traditional jazz band led by rising young trumpeter Gordon Au and featuring the evocative and joyous vocals of Tamar Korn. With one foot stomping in vintage tradition and the other in modern style, they’ll throw down everything from Louis Armstrong hits and New Orleans standards to Gordon’s exciting originals to surprisingly swinging adaptations of classical pieces and Disney tunes. The bottom line is this: whenever they play, it’s a helluva show.
**Directions: Take the 1 train to 116th St. Walk north on Broadway to Barnard’s Gates at 119th St. Enter campus, turn right, and look for the orange building (The Diana Center). Go down one floor to LL1. Give money to the smiling Columbia students, get your hand stamped, and dance to your heart’s content!

But wait!  There’s more.  WKCR-FM (the radio station of Columbia University, also accessible streaming live on the web at http://www.wkcr.org) is known for seventy years of jazz programming.  One of its long-standing programs — I remember listening to it as far back as the early Seventies — is OUT TO LUNCH, a weekday jazz show from 12-3.  This radio station plays the whole range of recorded jazz from 1917 to the present, from the ODJB to the world of free.  Splendid!  But often — not surprisingly — what’s known as “traditional jazz,” loosely defined as New Orleans, Chicago, early Swing — is left to the very scholarly divagations of the Dean of New York Jazz Radio, Phil Schaap.

Some weeks ago, I was driving home in the early afternoon on a Tuesday, and I turned on my car radio, whose first preset is 89.9, WKCR.  I forget what exactly was coming out of the speaker — was it I MUST HAVE IT by King Oliver or was it FAREWELL BLUES by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings? — but it was a delicious jolt.  The “disc jockey,” the archaic term for the person choosing what records to play, stayed out of the way of the music for a good long time.  Then she announced herself as “Lucy,” and the veils dropped from my eyes.  I am not embarrassed to say that I called the station and said, mock-ominously, “WHAT are you doing playing all that good hot jazz?  What’s the matter with you?” or words to that effect.  Then I introduced myself — Lucy and I know each other from Radegast and The Ear Inn — and we both started laughing happily.

Lucy Weinman is on the air every other Tuesday — her next show is December 13.  She has a clear voice, can pronounce the musicians’ names correctly, and her love for the music comes right through the speaker.  Today, when she was through playing a nice long set of Louis and Earl from 1928, including KNEE DROPS, she began her commentary with a hushed, “Oh, my God.  Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines,” which is proper reverence.

She has at least three or four brilliant careers in front of her, and JAZZ LIVES salutes her varied endeavors — while unmasking her secrets, which is the privilege of Hot Jazz Journalism.  Find out more about her lives at http://www.facebook.com/Lucy.Rae.W.  And if you’re lucky, she’ll bring her horn to a gig.  Pleasant surprises await!

JO JONES CENTENNIAL FESTIVAL (Oct. 2 -8, 2011) on WKCR-FM

Jo Jones, Coleman Hawkins, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Sir Charles Thompson, Jimmy Woode — London, 1964: CARAVAN

News from a great jazz radio station — WKCR-FM, emanating from Columbia University in New York City:

Tune in to for the Jo Jones Centennial from October 2nd at 2:00 p.m. to October 8th at 12:00 noon. Throughout the day, you’ll be able to hear presentations of the work of Papa Jo Jones by theme, with each show focusing on particular instrumentations, groupings, or musical qualities. Even if you’re an extreme Basie-ite, or know Jones better than most, you’re likely to hear something fresh this week: live performances and airchecks, music from the West End, recordings from Jones’ film appearances, and other stellar rarities. 

Jonathan “Jo” Jones (b. 10/7/11), nicknamed “Papa” to avoid confusion with jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones, stands as one of the most accomplished, influential, and innovative practitioners of his art in the history of jazz. Born in Chicago and raised in Alabama, Jones eventually made his way to Kansas City, Missouri, where he first recorded with Hunter’s Serenaders in 1931. His next recording, the Smith-Jones Inc. session in 1936, began his epochal work with William “Count” Basie, as well as a relationship with Lester “Pres” Young that would last into the ’50s. By the time Basie began recording under his own leadership, Jones was a part of a rhythm section that would redefine jazz and help usher in the pinnacle of the Swing Era. Jones played with Basie nearly continuously until 1944, when he was drafted for two years just at the end of the war. During this pre-war era he also worked with Teddy Wilson in the band for many of Billie Holiday’s greatest recordings. After his return, Jones continued to influence his peers, using his sound to balance Illinois Jacquet’s ferocious swing, Sonny Stitt’s ecstatic lines, and the melodies of singers like Jimmy Rushing and Joe Turner. Jones appeared as part of Jazz at the Philharmonic and at Newport as the guest of Basie and the Oscar Peterson Trio in ’57 and ’58, respectively. Eventually, he began recording as a leader with musicians like Ray and Tommy Bryant and old friends like Roy Eldridge. After his time with Basie, the great breadth of his work ensured that his sound persisted through the changes of bebop and beyond. Jones’ method of supporting swing, his talent for adding depth to the human voice, and his consistently impressive conception and execution live on. His sound provided the necessary backbone upon which so much great music was built. Join us in celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday, October 7th, 2011, with nearly a week of his music.

I spent many happy hours listening to and tape-recording the astonishing jazz festivals that WKCR-FM (89.9) had in years past . . . sometimes setting my alarm during the night to wake up at three-hour intervals to turn the tape reel over and go back to sleep, sometimes scheduling my daily activities around what would be broadcast that day.  Because of Phil Schaap, one of the station’s most diligent and enduring members, Jo Jones and WKCR have been linked for many years, with Jo speaking on-air to honor other jazz greats.  The station also broadcast live jazz from the West End Cafe (now no longer a music mecca) with Jo leading small groups that included Harold Ashby, Don Coates, John Ore, Sammy Price, Taft Jordan, Paul Quinichette, and others — even a teenaged Stanley Jordan.  Jo Jones deserves a week-long tribute of this depth and scope, and I’m only sorry that it had to wait for his centennial — after his death.  Listeners outside of the New York metropolitan area should visit WKCR’s online site — http://www.wkcr.org — where (through RealPlayer — the installation takes about six or seven minutes) the broadcasts can be heard without a radio, streaming.  I disposed of my reel-to-reel recorder years ago, but the good news is that RealPlayer entices me: click on a little red button, bottom left, and record the signal “to my library.”  I wonder how many external hard drives the centennial would fill up?  At least I could now get an unbroken night’s sleep.

WKCR-FM, www.wkcr.org, 212-851-2699

microphoneI don’t like pledge drives on public radio or public television.  More often than not, I have reacted to the extended earnest pleas for financial support by turning off the flow of words.  When I returned to New York this morning and heard that WKCR-FM was asking its listeners for financial support, my initial response was a muffled groan.  But two factors changed my thinking.  One is that the station (Columbia University’s jazz station, on the air steadily since October 1941) was broadcasting Benny Goodman’s music around the clock until June 1 — in honor of BG’s hundredth birthday.  And while I was listening to the flow of familiar BG sides from 1939, I heard a few Helen Forrest vocals I hadn’t heard before.

And — more to the point — the Beloved and I have spent the last week-plus in Utah.  Utah is extraordinarily beautiful, even oppressively and overwhelmingly so — but we couldn’t find any good music on the radio.  Seventies rock and religious music in profusion, but no Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Charlie Barnet, or Charlie Green.  Even when a station such as WKCR is broadcasting music that isn’t to my taste, it seems a cultural oasis in the American landscape.

I also remember WRVR-FM and Ed Beach — a glorious aesthetic and educational experience that vanished one day because someone wanted that particular frequency for a station that made more money.

So I called 212-851-2699 and made a contribution.  And I encourage blog-readers to do the same.  Even if you are out of the New York metropolitan area, you can access the station online at http://www.wkcr.org.  And if you did so, you’d hear Benny’s 1941 band with Sid Catlett, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Mel Powell . . . music worth supporting.  Please do!

“INTEGRITY OF BEING”: SONNY ROLLINS ON COLEMAN HAWKINS

hawkins1First, November 21 is Coleman Hawkins’s birthday — not a national holiday, yet.  But WKCR-FM, the jazz station of Columbia University, will play his music for twenty-four hours in his honor.  And if you’re not within reach of an FM radio, you can hear it online at http://www.wkcr.org.

The letter printed below originally came from the esteemed player and thinker Phil Woods, making its way to Jon-Erik Kellso, who sent me a copy of it.  I hope that no one minds my offering it here: I think it is an important document for reasons both musical and spiritual.


10/13/62 P.M.

My Dear Mr. Hawkins,

Your recent performance at the ‘Village Gate’ was magnificent!!  Quite aside from the fact that you have maintained a position of dominance and leadership in the highly competitive field of ‘Jazz’ for the time that you have there remains the more significant fact that such tested and tried musical achievement denoted and is subsidiary to personal character and integrity of being.

There have been many young men of high potential and demonstrated ability who have unfortunately not been ‘MEN’ in their personal and offstage practices and who soon found themselves devoid of the ability to create music.  Perhaps these chaps were unable to understand why their musical powers left them so suddenly.  Or perhaps they knew what actions were constructive as opposed to destructive but were too weak and not men enough to command the course of their lives.  But certain it is that character, knowledge and virtue are superior to ‘Music’ as such.  And that ‘success’ is relative to the evolution of those qualities within us all.  That it has been positive and lasting for you Coleman is to the honor and credit of us, your colleagues, as well as to your credit.  For you have ‘lit the flame’ of aspiration within so many of us and you have epitomized the superiority of ‘excellence of endeavor’ and you stand today as a clear living picture and example for us to learn from.

It has always been a task to explain in words those things which in nature are the most profound and meaningful.  Now you have shown me why I thought so much of you for so long.  Godspeed in your travels and may I be fortunate enough to hear you play the tenor saxophone again in person.

sonny_rollinsYours truly,

Sonny Rollins

The letter is deeply moving, its individuality emphasized by Sonny’s sincerity, his eighteenth-century prose flourishes.  Of course, it is a heartfelt expression of gratitude and admiration.  But what moves me is that Rollins isn’t praising Hawk’s musical inventiveness.  No, he pays tribute is to the maturity of character Hawkins showed; a moral tenacity displayed in his devotion to his art.

When Sonny praises Hawk for resisting the temptations that other, weaker players fell prey to, I suspect that he has Charlie Parker in mind and those players who fell under the spell of Bird’s music and his self-destructive persona.   “Character, knowledge and virtue” — rare qualities in themselves or in such a combination.

We praise Hawkins for making the tenor saxophone into a true jazz instrument, for helping to continue and expand the jazz ballad tradition.  He kept his own identity but he played alongside Mamie Smith in 1920 and with Monk, Coltrane, and Rollins forty years later, still immediately identifiable.  But I think we should also praise Rollins for his humility and his willingness to honor his ancestors.  Many of us might think some of the same thoughts about a person who has inspired us, but how many of us will write the letter?

Hawkins died in 1969, so he cannot hear our praise.  But we can still honor him by reminding others of the celebration on Friday, by listeining to it ourselves, and by keeping his music in our ears whenever we can.