Tag Archives: Creole Jazz Band

BIRD, TIGER, BIRD (December 16, 2014)

Weatherbird_Rag

Some etymology first.  WEATHER BIRD (or WEATHER BIRD RAG) was composed by Louis Armstrong, first recorded in 1923 by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, then as a duet in 1928 by Louis and Earl Hines.  The latter was an iconic recording — two great artists completely at play, leap-frogging and performing spectacular hide-and-seek for three minutes.  No wonder Gerald Murphy named his yacht after that record, and if I am correct, had a copy of it built inside the hull.

Weatherbird parlophone

I’d always thought a weatherbird was our “weather vane,” the metal or wood implement on top of a house or barn that pointed as the wind turned.  (I doubted that it was some avian creature that by its appearance told of rain or clear weather.)

weatherbird

Looking deeper, I found the lines in — of all places — Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, where someone “hit the old weather-bird for three hundred dollars,” and the online definition that this referred to a long-shot bet . . . going back to when people would try to hit the weather vane on a barn to show they could throw or shoot.  So — if you follow that line of reasoning, WEATHER BIRD might well be called HITTING THE JACKPOT AGAINST ALL ODDS, which is a good title to keep in mind for the music that follows.

Here are the peerless trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and the equally gifted pianist Ehud Asherie in duet at the West Tenth Street mecca for improvised music in New York City, Mezzrow, on December 16, 2014, venturing into Louis-and-Earl territory.  To me, it’s also Roy Eldridge – Claude Bolling territory, ditto for Frank Newton and Art Tatum, for Ruby Braff and Dick Hyman.  But I cherish Jon-Erik and Ehud, and you will too.

There is a small zoological digression . . . where the BIRD meets the TIGER. Ehud lets you know when the species switch, so no one can feel worried:

This is the first Musical Offering from that night at Mezzrow.

More to come.  Thank you, peerless Zoologists.

May your happiness increase!

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SCALING MOUNTAINS AT MONTEREY 2012 with the HIGH SIERRA JAZZ BAND and MARC CAPARONE (March 2, 2012)

No, no one burst into CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN, and Julie Andrews was otherwise engaged.  But the High Sierra Jazz Band — here with guest hero Marc Caparone added to an already hot front line — knows how to get to the top and stay there.  I present (for your listening, dining, and dancing pleasure) an early set from the 2012 Dixieland Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay — with leader and raconteur Pieter Meijers on reeds and wry commentary; Charlie Castro, drums; Earl McKee, sousaphone and vocals; Stan Huddleston, banjo; Bruce Huddleston, piano; Howard Miyata (“the happiest man in Dixieland,” but why stop there?) on trombone, misc. brass, and vocal; and the electrifying two-cornet team of Bryan Shaw and Marc.

They began with the Creole Jazz Band’s irresistible MABEL’S DREAM.  Pieter has obviously told many audiences a long wooly tale about who Mabel was and what she dreamed about (thrilling but somehow dubious).  Does anyone know the real story?  Was Mabel someone’s girlfriend, and did she dream lucky?  Do tell:

Earl McKee takes us under her wing — let’s go DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN:

Ah, that Boy is here again — and he has something to tell us named the WININ’ BOY BLUES:

Mister Morton, take the stand!  KANSAS CITY STOMPS:

When Sidney Bechet and Pieter book the tour, PASSPORT TO PARADISE is not merely an extravagant figure of speech:

Oh, Mister Jelly!  “Get off the sidewalk, can’t you?”  SIDEWALK BLUES:

They concluded their set with Fats Waller’s composed-in-a-taxicab-on-the-way-to-the-recording-studio-and-possibly-misidentified-on-the-label MINOR DRAG.  Another thing we have Eddie Condon to thank for.  (Should this song have been issued as HARLEM FUSS?  One never knows.  Do one?):

Good, good, good — hot and powerful, at the very peak.

May your happiness increase.

ONE MORE FROM THE JAZZ TREASURE CHEST: MIKE POINTON, TOMAS ORNBERG, BENT PERSSON: ASKERSUND JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 1994)

Thanks to Franz Hoffmann!

From June 18, 1994, at the Askersund, Sweden Jazz Festival: Bent Persson, cornet; Mike Pointon, trombone, vocal; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet, alto sax; possibly Ray Smith, piano; Tom Stuip, banjo; unknown (perhaps Bo Juhlin?), brass bass.

Flying all the way, they do HEEBIE JEEBIES — a very funny version for those who know the “original story”; a rousing CHATTANOOGA STOMP from the Creole Jazz Band book — with great Mortonish emphatic playing from the pianist; a loose and easy FOUR OR FIVE TIMES.

And thanks to Mister Strong, who lives on in this music.

THREE FOR LOUIS: MARTY EGGERS and FRIENDS at PIER 23 (May 2, 2011)

My West Coast role model Rae Ann Berry was on the move again in the beginning of May 2011 and she captured this hot afternoon session at Pier 23 in San Francisco.

It’s a splendid cross-generational encounter, the kind of music that results when experienced jazz players who know the common language and history get together and have their say, individually and collectively.

The bow-tied gent in front is cornetist Jim Cullum; well behind him in the shades is Leon Oakley, also on cornet; to their left is clarinet hero Bill Carter; Marty Eggers (often on bass) is stompin’ ’em down at the piano, J. Hansen doing the same at his drum kit.  Although my attention is usually focused on the cornetists, Hansen is solid, his sounds colorful; Marty is often thinking about Morton, and Bill Carter sounds exactly like himself — perfectly surprising, heartfelt, witty, brave.

Although Rae Ann recorded fifteen performances, I’ve chosen three I like very much as homages to Louis.

The first comes from the time when Louis was just up from New Orleans, “Little Louis,” although he was hardly slender, playing alongside his musical father, King Joe Oliver, in the Creole Jazz Band: RIVERSIDE BLUES:

And something from the Clarence Williams period (the Red Onion Jazz Babies), a hot CAKEWALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME where one of the gentlemen of the ensemble, obviously inspired, bursts into song to tell us all about those champions:

Here’s the closing selection of the Louis-evocation, what I think of as the National Anthem of our music, two cornets entwining on WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:

To see the dozen other performances that the diligent Ms. Berry has captured for us and for posterity, visit her YouTube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/SFRaeAnn

It’s moments like these that make a man think of pulling up his New York roots and moving — with the Beloved, CDs, turntable, computers, and tea strainer — to California.  Could one of my readers find me an income that will run for the next ten years so that this might be accomplished?

GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS with TAMAR KORN at RADEGAST (March 30, 2011)

The Grand Street Stompers (led by trumpeter, composer, and arranger Gordon Au) made a return visit to the Radegast Bierhall on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 — and I got myself there without mishap.  Brooklyn is still mysterious to me, but the mysts are beginning to lift.

With Gordon were Emily Asher (trombone), Dennis Lichtman (clarinet), Peter Maness (bass), Nick Russo (guitar and banjo and the proud father of five-month twins!), and Tamar Korn.  A small firmament of jazz stars (who will blush at this characterization).

Please listen to the band — not only the soloists, but to the textures they and Gordon create, moving back and forth between the Creole Jazz Band of 1922 and the Birth of the Cool of 1949 and the Grand Street Stompers of 2011.  No dull spots or routines: nifty head arrangements, split choruses, a neat orchestral sensibility!

I always found W.C. Handy’s OLE MISS irresistible — named for an especially speedy railroad train — whether it was played by the Condon gang at Town Hall or by Louis and the All-Stars.  This version pleases me immensely: its leisurely, rocking tempo and the alternating keys (I asked Gordon — F and Ab) from chorus to chorus.   And I love impromptu riffs:

Here’s Gordon’s own THIRTIETH STREET THINGAMAJIG, which would sound like a Sixties “Dixieland composition” (and that’s a compliment) until you notice the unusual chord changes throughout.  Not the usual thing or thingamajig at all:

How about going UP A LAZY RIVER with Miss Tamar?  A good idea:

Is it true that Glenn Miller was working undercover for Eisenhower and the entire “small-plane-and-bad-weather” story was made up to conceal the facts?  It wouldn’t surprise me (Joe Yukl would now)  . . . but what we have here is a pretty rendition of his theme, MOONLIGHT SERENADE, with unusual twists — Bubber Miley meets the Schillinger system:

And here’s CRAZY EYES — a hilarious modern love song with music and lyrics by Gordon.  To learn the lyrics, I think you’ll have to purchase the Stompers’ new CD . . . watch this space for late-breaking news:

Thank you, gentlemen and ladies of the GSS!

CHARLESTON MAD! (The SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS)

The Scandinavian Rhythm Boys are a deeply rewarding hot band, and they’ve just come out with a new CD, CHARLESTON MAD.  I’ve been excited by the band for a few years now.  And I was delighted to be able to write a short liner note for this new release, which I’ve reprinted below.

I first encountered the SRB on YouTube and was astonished and delighted by their skill and feeling, their wit and casual intensity. I didn’t feel the need for a pianist, a trombonist, a drummer. They swung; they were complete; they lived within the jazz tradition without imitating its recorded artifacts. Even better, they had solved the problem common to musical groups and larger communities (world leaders take note): how to gather individuals with strong personalities and blend them into a cohesive whole without trampling on anyone’s identity.

Who are the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys? I’ll start with the one musician I’ve been privileged to meet: reed master Frans Sjostrom. (I’m especially happy that I’ve learned how to pronounce his name correctly.) Frans’ rhythm is irresistible; his solos are haunting songs. The easy assessment on hearing Frans play the bass sax is to compare him to Adrian Rollini, but why define his creativity in such a narrow way? When I hear Frans play any saxophone I think of Coleman Hawkins; I think of Pablo Casals.

Then there’s Ole Olsen, whose clarinet playing has the deep feeling and down-home ease of Louis Cottrell and the New Orleans masters. On string bass, he supports and guides the group with his simple, neat lines, his woody sound, his strong pulse. His partner is the splendid Michael Boving, whose banjo rings and whispers – never a threat to communal serenity. Ole and Michael could rock a seventeen-piece band and have energy left over after the gig. Michael is also an astonishing singer whose vocals come from his heart. When he sings, “How long will I have to wait?” it has the mournful shouting force of a soul in torment; when he tells you he’s “Charleston mad,” we know it’s true.

Robert Hansson must have daredevils and acrobats in his genetic makeup, because he knows no fear: his spinning, shining lines, light as air, leap and dance high above the crowd. I think of early Bill Coleman, of Doc Cheatham, of Bob Barnard when I hear Robert – and of bright traceries in the twilight sky.

These four players combine to make lovely music, an art that doesn’t show off how difficult its achievements are. Whether they’re playing the classic jazz repertoire of Joe Oliver, Clarence Williams, Lovie Austin, or the ODJB, or Scandinavian pop classics – they spread joy and inspire us to smile, to dance, to exult. What a delicious accomplishment this CD is!

The website for the SRB is http://www.srbjazz.com.  There you can hear two performances from the CD, HESITATING BLUES and CLARINET MARMALADE, and there you can buy the CD.  Or, as Michael Boving suggested, “JAZZCLUB Copenhagen is our best jazz record shop in town.  They have
got the CD and it can be ordered now – your readers can find Jazzclub Copenhagen on Google and it’s there.”

Here are two video clips recorded by our mutual friend Flemming Thorbye — of the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys on a harbor cruise in Copenhagen.  One of the sweetest things about this CD, by the way, is that the SRB create swinging versions of Scandinavian classic pop tunes — giving listeners like myself something new to hum (something new that we can’t get out of our heads no matter how hard we try)!

Here’s TRUBBLE:

And here’s the title tune, with a thrilling, rough-cut vocal by Michael Boving, CHARLESTON MAD:

There are many video clips of the SRB on YouTube, including a few with the esteemed Joe Muranyi, but none of them will substitute for the pleasure of this CD — which I’ve been playing while driving through Central Park, for instance, with my window rolled down and the volume up to respectable (I hope not annoying) levels, sending this Good Hot Music out into the world.  It deserves to be heard!  (One of the best vignettes on this disc is the Richard M. Jones song — I associate it with the Oliver band — I AIN’T GONNA TELL NOBODY — which I’ve never heard with lyrics.  That is the very opposite of the way I feel about this music.)

“BLUE BLOOD BLUES”: SPENCER’S NIGHTHAWKS

I’ve been listening to a five-disc set called JAZZ MAGIC featuring cornetist Carl Spencer and his bands.  Between 1964 and 1972, Spencer led a small hot group called the Washboard Kings which devoted itself to a wide range of music — from early pop and jazz to the earliest Thirties.  After an extended hiatus, Spencer reformed his band as Carl Spencer’s Nighthawks Orchestra and it’s continuing to gig as I write this. 

Spencer’s bands have impresssed me both by their wide range (the musicians are comfortable playing the repertoire of the Creole Jazz Band, Bix Beiderbecke, Luis Russell, and pop music of the day — TAKE YOUR GIRLIE TO THE MOVIES IF YOU CAN’T MAKE LOVE AT HOME for one example) and their relaxed authenticity.  They know the Twenties styles well and can improvise within these idioms. 

Here’s a YouTube clip of two of Spencer’s star reed players working their way through Morton’s BLUE BLOOD BLUES.  This was recorded at the 2001 Bude Jazz Festival and features Brian Hills and Mac White, clarinets; Henry Davis, piano; Mike Parle, banjo; Roger Graham,  tuba; Tim Philips, drums.

JAZZ MAGIC contains 122 tracks, drawn from studio sessions and live performances, with guest features for pianists Martin Litton and Neville Dickie, banjoist / singer Spats Langham, and others — a delightfully varied assortment that deserves to be better known.  Visit  www.spencersnighthawks.com for more information on the band and on JAZZ MAGIC.