One of the pleasures of this blog is the attentive local correspondents who come bearing gifts of information and insight. Marianne Mangan is the most recent addition to the unpaid Jazz Lives staff of roving reporters, and I hope she phones in her stories frequently!
What a night Monday is for the hot stuff! You’ve talked about Vince & the Nighthawks at Sofia’s, and we know about the Grove Street Stompers at Arthur’s (VERY good on Sunday, too, with the Creole Cooking Jazz Band), but here’s one more. On Monday night we (my “beloved” / husband is writer / one-time jazz critic Robert Levin) had occasion to hear the Stan Rubin Jazz All-Stars at Charley O’s Time Square Grill. The poster outside still shows Dan Levinson and Jon-Erik Kellso…not so and no matter. The multi-talented and always able Herb Gardner led on keyboard, with young Peter Reardon Anderson on clarinet and tenor sax, steady Steve Alcott on bass, Arnie Kinsella hammering those accents home on drums (and using brushes more than anyone around) and the remarkable Peter Ecklund on trumpet and four-valve flugelhorn. They swung and stomped their way through the likes of “Milenberg Joys,” “Who’s Sorry Now?,” “Big Butter & Egg Man” and “Oh, Baby,” pausing occasionally to temper the heat with the out & out heart-melting: “One Hundred Years From Today” and “I Surrender, Dear.”
Ecklund played every song like he had a personal connection to it: so musical, so smart, sometimes sly, sometimes sweet, always accurate. He’s generous with the other players, leading them into phrasings that are unexpected and just right. They seemed happy for the inspiration and played like a tight unit, although he’s only with them once or twice a month.
Peter also plays with the Gotham Jazzmen on Wednesdays 12:30 to 2:00 at the Greenwich Village Bistro, 13 Carmine Street at Bleecker & 6th. With Jim Collier leading on trombone, Sam Parkins on clarinet, Dick Miller on piano and Peter on whatever he feels like (which was flugelhorn and ukelele last week), the old pros wove a spell around “Rosetta,” “Deed I Do,” “China Boy,” and more. Subtle, nuanced–lovely stuff. Peter’s played like this every time I’ve seen him recently. In person, he sounds like his CDs, made when he was the hot hand among cornet players. I, for one, would like the opportunity to see him work a lot more.
Thanks for all the great information (and mood elevating, too!) you get out there, Michael!
A few more words about Peter Ecklund. Perceptive, witty, and insightful, he’s been a jazz scholar of great renown — his work on Bix and Louis is hugely admired in the field and by his colleagues. I first heard him on a Stomp Off vinyl issue, PETER ECKLUND AND THE MELODY MAKERS, which featured him in the congenial company of Dan Barrett, Ken Peplowski, Joe Muranyi, Barbara Dreiwitz, Marty Grosz, Eddy Davis — the finest players then in New York. Happily, that CD has just been reissued as HORN OF PLENTY on the Classic Jazz label — eminently worthwhile listening, vigorous, lyrical, and hot. Even when Peter puts down his horns on these sessions, his whistling on “Take Your Tomorrow” is reason enough to buy the CD.
I had the opportunity to hear him twice in 1990 in concerts held in Babylon, New York (no one’s idea of a jazz hotbed) with Muranyi, Grosz, and Barrett — wonderful stuff. I remember with pleasure Muranyi’s singing of “Louisiana Fairy Tale,” which was still the theme song of THIS OLD HOUSE. Days gone by!
I followed Peter’s playing through several Arbors CDs, and then caught up with him a few years ago — at the Cajun with the Gotham Jazzmen, with other pickup groups, and as a noble guest at the Ear Inn with Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri. Peter has always had a variety of approaches — his early work had some of the tumbling bravado of Jabbo Smith balanced against the sweetness of Bix and Bobby Hackett. When he used his mute, his personality as well as his sound changed, sometimes summoning up the growls and moans of the Thirties Ellington brass. Peter always offered shining melodic improvisations that went in unexpected ways, and his recent playing, focused and fervent, is reminiscent of the delicate yet arching trajectories of Doc Cheatham. I hope we hear Peter more and more . . . and that, like Doc, his playing career is long and delightful. All hail a great talent!
As a postscript, at Marianne’s suggestion, I put on the Jazzology CD of 1994, ECKLUND AT ELKHART: Peter leading what might be The Perfect Band: Dan Barrett, Bobby Gordon, Mark Shane, Marty Grosz, Greg Cohen, and Hal Smith. Music to rejoice by, and sorely needed, too.