Tag Archives: Dan Block

THE IMMORTAL BOB BARNARD (1933-2022), PART TWO: CHEER IN THE MIDST OF SORROW

In yesterday’s post celebrating the extraordinary person and musician Bob Barnard, I referred to his delightful penchant for songs no one else was playing or improvising on. I suggested it was a love of melodies, but I think also it was a way of avoiding routine, sweetly challenging himself and the others on the stand, so the musical special for this evening wouldn’t be ROYAL GARDEN BLUES or SATIN DOLL, although he played them with ingenuity and fervor.

I wish I had had my recording equipment at Jazz at Chautauqua when Bob played A BROWN SLOUCH HAT, the patriotic Australian song from 1942 that I suspect few, if any in the audience had heard or heard of. But I was properly equipped in 2007 (although secretly) when he called this tune, from PINOCCHIO, by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, sung by Cliff Edwards as “Jiminy Cricket”:

So to celebrate Bob properly, as a bright beacon of joy, I offer this audio-only performance from the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. The other soloists are Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums. Performed on Friday, September 14, 2007 and recorded surreptitiously, of course:

And always let your conscience be your guide.

A TENDER INTERLUDE: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, DAN BLOCK, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, December 14, 2021)

A WEAVER OF DREAMS, music by Victor Young, lyrics by Jack Elliott, published in 1951, is both notable and obscure. It’s been recorded by so many people (Lord’s discography lists 154 recordings): Carmen McRae, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Cedar Walton, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett come to mind, but I couldn’t remember hearing it performed on a gig until Gabrielle Stravelli sang it with Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass, at Swing 46, on December 14, 2021.

This version is pensive and lovely. I hope more people add this song to their repertoires, and, as always, I hope to expand the fan clubs of Gabrielle, Dan, Michael, and Pat — working band of four friends:

This band and these musicians are reasons I plan to stay in New York: they make what could be an urban desert bloom and keep blooming.

May your happiness increase!

CAHIERS DU CINEMA, or REVISITING PLEASURE: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BLOCK, JAMES DAPOGNY, NICKI PARROTT at the CLEVELAND CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (September 12, 2015)

Playful heroic figures: Jim Dapogny, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Block, Nicki Parrott

There’s a brief story behind this post, but you can skip forward to the wonderful music, performed at the 2015 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; James Dapogny, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass. My friend and videographer Laura Wyman (of WYMAN VIDEO) were both at this party, with cameras, tripods, batteries, all the detritus of the profession, and we both eagerly recorded this session: four of our heroes stretching out in the nicest ways. I had the videos in my archives, unseen, and thought to release them to the eager public, and got permission to do so, and then saw that I had publicized Laura’s versions on this blog in 2015 here . . . but saw that those videos had not been seen by the thousands of viewers they deserved. So here is my exercise in — archaeology? — comparative cinematography? — or simply spreading joy. You pick. And here, as if we needed them, are three more reasons to miss Jim Dapogny terribly.

The first is Irving Berlin’s RUSSIAN LULLABY (and, even given the political climate of March 2022, please don’t boycott this performance):

ISHAM JONES’ pretty ON THE ALAMO:

Finally, revenge and remorse, thanks to Harry Ruby and Gus Kahn, WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

Gratitude and blessings to Laura, the four inventive marvels on the stand, and to Nancy Hancock Griffith and her mother for making all of this happen in Cleveland, not that many years ago.

May your happiness increase!

SLOWLY, WITH PASSION: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, December 14, 2021)

Going slowly can be a true art, enabling musicians who understand to get behind the song and let light shine through, also. The four people in these two performances are masters of those subtle arts: Gabrielle Stravelli, voice; Dan Block, reeds; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass. They don’t double the tempo; Gabrielle doesn’t reduce the beautiful lyrics to scat-rubble. What emerges, bar by bar, is magic.

First, the Hoagy Carmichael – Johnny Mercer SKYLARK, translucent, tender, intense:

Mercer again, this time with Victor Schertzinger, for I REMEMBER YOU, with the brief but touching verse:

Like bird-flight, sweetly memorable.

May your happiness increase!

EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOR: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, October 5, 2021)

This neat little band has been attracting fans and friends on early Tuesday evenings at Swing 46 (349 West 46th Street, New York City) for more than a few months . . . and it deserves to have its names up in lights. Leader Dan Block (tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet) gives equal time to the wonderful Gabrielle Stravelli (vocals), Michael Kanan (piano), and Pat O’Leary (string bass). Here they are — about two months ago — tenderly moseying through the Waller-Razaf AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — which is truly a love song about fidelity and joyous discovery — at a tempo that makes it emotionally meaningful, rather than a race to the outchorus:

What lovely playful sounds! And in their three sets on a Tuesday night, this splendid quartet creates marvel after marvel. You mean to say you could have visited them at West 46th Street and haven’t . . . ?

May your happiness increase!

SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN: DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, PAT O’LEARY, PAUL BOLLENBACK at SWING 46 (September 9, 2021)

This, the second tune of the evening, was completely prescient, because by the end of the evening the impending drizzle had indeed turned to rain and it was, thank you, Harry Warren, September. But these four lovely intrepid musical explorers soldiered on in the nicest ways: Dan Block, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Pat O’Leary, string bass; Paul Bollenback, guitar. All this goodness happened on one of Dan Block’s Tuesday soirees (5:30-8:30 PM) at Swing 46, 349 West 46th Street, New York.

and that swinging Sinatra-rooted ultimatum, ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL:

and after an intentionally other-worldly prelude, Arlen’s OUT OF THIS WORLD:

Finally, at the close of the evening, when it really DID begin to rain, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE, with the multi-talented Michelle Collier (a fine singer herself) scurrying to batten down the hatches:

All praise to this quartet, including the resonant even when invisible Pat O’Leary! And they will be back in November, on the last two Tuesdays (say that quickly — I dare you) to lift our spirits and create joy. Swing 46 has an “inside,” with a piano and a stage, so you won’t have to think about your underwear. Unless, of course, you’d like to: then who am I to stop you?

May your happiness increase!

A CONTROLLED BLAZE: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, PAUL BOLLENBACK, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, September 21, 2021)

Art is all about passion: think of the great soprano arias, whether Puccini or Bechet; think of Louis or Bird — the heart on fire, so full of feelings to be shared with us. But there’s the counterbalance: passion without control might be noise. Anyone who’s tried to play or sing — seriously — knows how much exactitude is required to create the notes, the phrases, the pauses, that create that drama that didn’t exist five minutes before.

Gabrielle Stravelli and the instrumentalists surrounding her on the early-evening performances at Swing 46 not only know these truths but embody them: call it passion and control, abandonment and discipline: here are three soulful examples by Gabrielle, Dan Block, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Paul Bollenback, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

I WALK A LITTLE FASTER (Cy Coleman – Carolyn Leigh):

BORN TO BE BLUE (Mel Torme – Robert Wells):

BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH (Oscar Levant – Edward Heyman):

The closing notes of BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH say it all.

Gabrielle and her friends (most often the irreplaceable pianist Michael Kanan) have gigs all over town (hooray!) and you can find out more here or here. Even in the ruckus that is West 46th Street, sirens and chatter at no charge, their art aims straight at us. And sticks.

May your happiness increase!

“WE LOVE THEM. MADLY.” GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, October 5, 2021)

When you know, you know. I was at Swing 46 last night to see and hear and applaud Dan Block, alto and tenor saxophones; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, keyboard; Pat O’Leary, string bass. It threatened to rain all through the gig and the usual street theatre of that block was at its best (come visit and see for yourselves).

In the middle of the second set, Gabrielle called the Ellington LOVE YOU MADLY and they performed it with great enthusiastic beauty . . . at the end of the performance, Gabrielle said exultantly, as if she were Ida Lupino directing a film, “CUT! And PRINT!” looking at me, which I took as the sign of a small miracle, that an artist, completing a performance, is happy with it. I got permission from the other three, so you can enjoy this marvel, hot and fresh:

This wonderful quartet performs every Tuesday from 5:30 to 8:30. I’ve been there every week and have always come away full of joy. They’re loved . . . madly.

May your happiness increase!

EVEN MORE MAGIC IN MIDTOWN: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, September 14, 2021)

Here’s what I wrote about this superb quartet when I visited them on August 31:


Between 5:30 and 8:30 last night, beauty filled the air in front of Swing 46 (Forty-Sixth Street, west of Eighth Avenue, New York City) thanks to Gabrielle Stravelli (above), vocals; Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet, Michael Kanan, keyboard; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

I don’t have any video evidence for you, but with good reason: that’s a busy street, and occasionally the music was– shall we say — intruded upon by clamor. But the music won out, of course, and it wasn’t a matter of volume, but of emotional intensity. I’ve admired Gabrielle for more than a decade now: her beautiful resonant voice, lovely at top and bottom, her wonderful vocal control. But more so, her candid expressive phrasing, matching the emotions of each song in subtle convincing ways. She’s always fully present in the musical story, eloquent and open. With witty lyrics, she sounds as if she’s just about to burst into giggles; on dark material, she can sound downright vengeful. In three sets last night, she offered a deep bouquet of ballads — and not only songs usually done slowly: FLY ME TO THE MOON; I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?, I’LL WALK ALONE; YOU’VE CHANGED; I’LL BE AROUND. A few vengence-is-mine songs — GOODY GOODY and THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY — added spice, and her readings of the first title and the second song’s “Good riddance, good-bye,” suggested once again that she is a splendid friend and perhaps a fierce enemy. Many of the other standards — NIGHT AND DAY, JUST IN TIME, AS LONG AS I LIVE — are well-established landmarks in the repertoire, but Gabrielle made them shine. She embraces the song; her singing reaches out to us, fervently and gently.

Her delight in singing to us was matched by that of her colleagues. Dan Block is quietly memorable in any context, and his sound alone was delightful. But he and Gabrielle had flying conversations where their intuitive telepathy was a marvel. Other times, he played Lester to her Billie, “filling in the windows,” offering just the right counterpoint and loving commentary. He was matched by Michael Kanan, master of quiet touching subversions in the manner of our hero Jimmie Rowles; both he and the superb bassist Pat O’Leary not only kept the time and the harmonies beautifully in place but created their own songs throughout.

I visited Swing 46 again last night, and the four artists just outdid themselves. And although 46th Street is not ideal for video-recording, I have two to offer you. But first, some updates.

Dan brought his most magical bass clarinet to add to tenor saxophone and clarinet: he’s always astounded me on that possibly balky instrument since our first intersections in 2004. In the hustle and bustle of the street — in Gabrielle’s closing lines of AS LONG AS I LIVE, a song about how the singer wants to take good care of herself, an ambulance, lights and sirens blazing and blaring, went by — Michael and Pat created one quirky inquiring beautiful phrase after the other, supporting, encouraging, exploring, even trading musical witticisms. And Gabrielle touched our hearts in singular ways on song after song.

And this band has a splendidly expansive repertoire: two “all right” tunes — I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT and IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME, a seriously playful LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME and a brooding WARM VALLEY — to which Gabrielle has created very touching, simple but not cliched, lyrics; an EXACTLY LIKE YOU where it seemed as if the whole band was ready to break into laughter at something, an enthusiastic SOON, a LADY BE GOOD where Gabrielle and Dan did Lester’s 1936 solo line (!) — a few more classic love songs, FALLING IN LOVE WITH LOVE than became LET’S FALL IN LOVE (with the verse), ISN’T THIS A LOVELY DAY which perhaps subliminally led into NIGHT AND DAY. The other side of love had to be explored, and was, in LITTLE WHITE LIES and ILL WIND. There was Gabrielle’s jaunty tread through YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME, love via meteorology with A FOGGY DAY and a few more. One I cannot forget is Gabrielle’s reading of BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH — heartbreaking yet controlled.

I heard whispers that this group is considering a CD with some deep slow songs. I hope these rumors are true.

And there’s video. Imperfect but there. But it requires a little prelude.

I had checked the weather report obsessively, hoping for enough rain to bring the band and audience inside but not enough to make the sometimes-leaky building a disaster. No such luck. So when I arrived early and was greeted by the kind, resourceful Michelle Collier (a fine singer herself) I had resigned myself to no video. But, I thought, I could set up the camera, put it on the table with the lens cap on, and have an auditory souvenir. If my video and audio capers documented in this blog haven’t made it clear, I delight in having evidence of joyous creativity — to make it last forever.

I’d resigned myself to creating the modern equivalent of radio (and the black-screen audios sound quite nice) but for the third song, when Dan put the bass clarinet together, I thought, “I HAVE to capture this,” and held the heavy camera-and-microphone in my hands for nearly six minutes (hence the mildly trembling unsteadiness . . . no time to unpack my tripod and no space for it anyway) and I am delighted I did, because this LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is the most inspired conversation among a quartet:

I couldn’t hold the camera steady after that, but I found a place for it on the table, and I’m glad I did — for WARM VALLEY, with Gabrielle’s lyrics. Most lyrics added after the fact to Ellington songs seem out of place; hers do not:

I try to avoid hyperbole, but those are two masterpieces. I believe this quartet will appear at Swing 46 for the remaining two Tuesdays in September and the last two weeks in October. If you vibrate to the arts of this music, tender, solemn, hilarious, raucously swinging, you owe it to yourself to get to 349 West 46th Street, between Eight and Ninth Avenue (on the north side) on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 8:30. Gabrielle, Mchael, Dan, and Pat bestow blessings in every song.

May your happiness increase!

MAGIC IN MIDTOWN: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, August 31, 2021)

Between 5:30 and 8:30 last night, beauty filled the air in front of Swing 46 (Forty-Sixth Street, west of Eighth Avenue, New York City) thanks to Gabrielle Stravelli (above), vocals; Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet, Michael Kanan, keyboard; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

I don’t have any video evidence for you, but with good reason: that’s a busy street, and occasionally the music was — shall we say — intruded upon by clamor. But the music won out, of course, and it wasn’t a matter of volume, but of emotional intensity. I’ve admired Gabrielle for more than a decade now: her beautiful resonant voice, lovely at top and bottom, her wonderful vocal control. But more so, her candid expressive phrasing, matching the emotions of each song in subtle convincing ways. She’s always fully present in the musical story, eloquent and open. With witty lyrics, she sounds as if she’s just about to burst into giggles; on dark material, she can sound downright vengeful. In three sets last night, she offered a deep bouquet of ballads — and not only songs usually done slowly: FLY ME TO THE MOON; I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?, I’LL WALK ALONE; YOU’VE CHANGED; I’LL BE AROUND. A few vengence-is-mine songs — GOODY GOODY and THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY — added spice, and her readings of the first title and the second song’s “Good riddance, good-bye,” suggested once again that she is a splendid friend and perhaps a fierce enemy. Many of the other standards — NIGHT AND DAY, JUST IN TIME, AS LONG AS I LIVE — are well-established landmarks in the repertoire, but Gabrielle made them shine. She embraces the song; her singing reaches out to us, fervently and gently.

Her delight in singing to us was matched by that of her colleagues. Dan Block is quietly memorable in any context, and his sound alone was delightful. But he and Gabrielle had flying conversations where their intuitive telepathy was a marvel. Other times, he played Lester to her Billie, “filling in the windows,” offering just the right counterpoint and loving commentary. He was matched by Michael Kanan, master of quiet touching subversions in the manner of our hero Jimmie Rowles; both he and the superb bassist Pat O’Leary not only kept the time and the harmonies beautifully in place but created their own songs throughout.

This quartet has been appearing with some regularity on Tuesdays at Swing 46 from 5:30 to 8:30. You can come by, have a drink or a full meal, and pretend — even in the intermittent clamor of midtown — that you are on vacation somewhere unnamed with the finest musicians entertaining you. To quote Alec Wilder, you certainly ought to try it.

May your happiness increase!

IRRESISTIBLE DANCE MUSIC: “EARLY BLUE EVENING,” ANDY FARBER and his ORCHESTRA (ArtistShare 0186)

I shy away from hperbole, but the new CD by Andy Farber and his Orchestra is a triumph.

Watch, listen, and marvel:

I was informed just a few days ago of a package — the new CD by Andy Farber and his Orchestra, EARLY BLUE EVENING — and I started to play it and was so very delighted. It feels so comfortable and so convincing. It was a working band (for the musical AFTER MIDNIGHT) and it has that lovely cohesion that ensembles with regular work acquire — a sort of assurance, that “We know the way home,” so prevalent in the Swing Era and beyond. Listeners will hear evocations of the blessed past, of Basie and Ellington, but this CD is light-years away from a ghost band or “a cover band.” They are creating, not recreating, with heart and wit and strength. The CD features nine originals — memorable ones — two standards, and the wonderful appearance of Catherine Russell. Here’s the collective personnel, with a reed section adept in flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, and other wonderful things.

Andy Farber: leader, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones; arranger, composer
REEDS: Mark Gross, Godwin Louis, Dan Block, Lance Bryant, Carl Maraghi
TRUMPETS: Brian Pareschi, Bruce Harris, Shawn Edmonds, James Zoller
TROMBONES: Art Baron, Wayne Goodman, Dion Tucker
RHYTHM: James Chirillo, guitar; Adam Birnbaum, piano; Jennifer Vincent, string bass; Alvester Garnett, drums.

You’ll notice it’s a large ensemble but it’s never ponderous. I kept thinking of how splendid it was to hear an orchestra with the power of a Broadway pit ensemble and the sleek witty grace of a small group. (My mind collects bits of data, as crows collect shiny objects, and I kept thinking of rotund Jimmy Rushing, who was a great nimble dancer.) I know some of the musicians through decades of admiring their work in person, others through their recordings, and they are superb — bridging the noble past and the delighted present with such grace.

Other factors that don’t always get mentioned are these: Andy’s compositions are vividly alive, and they don’t sound alike . . . they have scope and humor, so there’s none of the repetitive claustrophobia that some CDs have, where one wakes from a half-dream, saying, “Is it track 19 already?” And that scope extends as well to the recorded sound: you’ll notice in the video, no baffles and headphone — so the sound is what you would hear if you were seated in front of the band — only better.

I know the philosophical-practical question comes up, “Given all the music I have already and what I can access, why in the name of Emile Berliner should I buy another CD? And why this one?”

The answer comes in two parts. If you like jazz that swings without being self-conscious about it, a wonderful large group leavened with tasty soloists and neat section work, a phenomenal rhythm section, you’ll like this. To be simpler: perhaps the test of any purchase should I be, “Will this make me happier than if I hadn’t bought it?” It would be presumptuous to say YES to this singular audience, with its own likes and detestations . . . but YES.

This band rocks. Go back to FEET AND FRAMES if you need a booster shot of genuineness. I said it is irresistible dance music: my dancing days never happened, but I am gyrating in my chair as I write this.

And the second part of the answer is just as plain . . . jazz fans who truly “love the music” know that art is not free, and that we are in the delightful position — not a burden — of being able to support what gives us pleasure. And last I saw, musicians like paying their rent and having semi-regular meals also.

You can purchase a CD with all the side dishes — or a download at the ArtistShare website here.Then you won’t have to ask yourself HOW AM I TO KNOW? Because you will KNOW.

May your happiness increase!

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (Part Two): MARTY GROSZ and his PEP-STEPPERS at Jazz at Chautauqua: DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, SCOTT ROBINSON, DAN BLOCK, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, PETE SIERS (September 22, 2012).

Marty Grosz, by Lynn Redmile.

Some nine years after this performance, I think of my immense good fortune at being “there,” and being able to document these moments. In those nine years, I thought now and again, “I’m going to save these for my retirement,” and now I can say, “Hey, I’m retired! Let the joys commence.”

These two performances — perhaps from a SONGS OF 1928 set? — are accomplished, joyous, and hilarious — created by musicians who can Play while they are Playing and nothing gets lost, nothing is un-swung.  For instance: the bass clarinet and taragoto figures created on the spot by Scott Robinson and Dan Block behind Dan Barrett’s DIGA solo — Louis and Duke applaud, but so does Mack Sennett.  The jubilant expert Joy-Spreaders are Marty Grosz, guitar and arrangements; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, taragoto; Dan Block, clarinet, bass clarinet.

Ask yourself, “Who’s wonderful?  Who’s marvelous?” and the answer is of course MISS ANNABELLE LEE:

and another hit (I hear Irving Mills’ vocalizing) DIGA DIGA DOO:

I feel better than I did ten minutes ago. You, too, I hope. Marty and everyone else in these performances are still with us: talk about good fortune, doubled and tripled.

May your happiness increase!

O RARE FATS WALLER! –“CAUGHT”: MARTY GROSZ, JAMES DAPOGNY, DUKE HEITGER, BOB HAVENS, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, VINCE GIORDANO, ARNIE KINSELLA (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 14, 2007)

Do consider. What could be better than an unpublished Fats Waller composition arranged twice for all-star hot jazz band — the arrangers being Marty Grosz and James Dapogny — with the arrangements (different moods, tempi, and keys) played in sequence? I know my question is rhetorical, but you will have the evidence to delight in: a jewel of an extended performance from 2007.

James Dapogny at Jazz at Chautauqua, 2014, by Michael Steinman.

CAUGHT is an almost-unknown Fats Waller composition (first recorded by James Dapogny) presented in two versions, one after the other, at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua, first Marty Grosz’s ominous music-for-strippers, then Dapogny’s romp. One can imagine the many possible circumstances that might have led to this title . . . perhaps unpaid alimony, or other mischief?

Marty, 2009, by Michael Steinman.

The alchemists here are James Dapogny, piano; Marty Grosz, banjo and explanations; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, alto saxophone, clarinet; Scott Robinson, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Vince Giordano, tuba, string bass, bass saxophone; Arnie Kinsella, drums.

Note to meticulous consumers of sounds: this track begins with immense extraneous noise, and Arnie’s accents explode in the listeners’ ears. The perils of criminality: I had a digital recorder in my jacket pocket, so if and when I moved, the sound of clothing is intrusive. I apologize for imperfections, but I am proud of my wickedness; otherwise you wouldn’t have this to complain about:

I have been captivated by this performance for years — the simple line, so developed and lifted to the skies by the performers, the arrangements: the generous music given unstintingly to us. You might say I’ve been CAUGHT.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET [COSMOLOGICAL] SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part Three): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

On the calendar, July 13, 2021, was an ordinary Tuesday in New York City — July, hot and humid. But at Swing 46 (that’s 349 West 46th Street) extraordinary music was being created . . . by Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass. I’ve posted performances from this evening for the past two days here.

Dan, Pat, Gabrielle: photo by Jon De Lucia.
Michael Kanan, photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle, photo by Jon De Lucia.

I don’t think there was a conscious choice on the part of this stellar group, but a number of the songs chosen (including Weill’s LOST IN THE STARS) suggested that their composers had their eyes aloft to the heavens. So it pleases me to group them together: perhaps NASA will subsidize a concert by this cosmic quartet?

First, Tadd Dameron’s melody line over SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN, called ON A MISTY NIGHT:

A gleeful IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON:

The most gorgeous STAIRWAY TO THE STARS:

Harold Arlen’s IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE STARS:

May your happiness increase!

SWEET SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part Two): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

The very place: Swing 46, 349 West 46th Street, New York City, where good music is fresh, hot, and sweet.
Dan, Pat, and Gabrielle: photo by Jon De Lucia.
Michael Kanan, photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle, photo by Jon De Lucia.

On July 13, which was an ordinary Tuesday, late afternoon, Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass, created wonderful music for all to savor. And savor we did. In my first posting from that evening, they mingled Lester Young, George and Ira, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler . . . gorgeously here. But I said there was more to come, and I wouldn’t want to deceive anyone.

Here are three more: two Ellingtons, one Lerner and Loewe.

ALL TOO SOON (with Ben Webster at the bar, feeling it):

DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:

ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE:

Yes, more to come (a cosmological quartet, to pique your curiosities).

And a few words about Swing 46 — it was a pleasure to be there in a congenial atmosphere — a large food-and-drink menu and a very welcoming staff. Next Tuesday, Dan will be back with the delightful Hilary Gardner (swinging, surprising, and introspective) and other luminaries to be announced, from 5:30 to 8:30. And at 9, the irreplaceable Michael Hashim leads noble friends — who have included Chris Flory and Kevin Dorn — in an impromptu session. That’s 349 West 46th Street, the north side, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. Leave your bedroom: put down the phone: Netflix will be here when you come back: what’s in the freezer is safe. Hear some restorative live music among like-minded friends.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part One): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

Four of my musical heroes made wonderful sounds the other night at Swing 46 (that’s 349 West 46th Street, New York City): Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

Dan Block, Pat O’Leary, Gabrielle Stravelli. Photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle Stravelli. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

Four heroes, five wonderful performances. It was a Tuesday night; the gig went from 5:30 to 8:30 — hardly the day and time one would expect aesthetic firework displays, but they certainly happened.

Michael Kanan. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

TICKLE-TOE — an instrumental tribute to and embodiment of Lester Young, so happily. Savor the first ballad chorus!:

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME — could anything be more tender?:

Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler give us friendly rules for living and romance, AS LONG AS I LIVE:

Even though it was becoming dark, here’s a frolicsome DAY IN, DAY OUT:

A sweetly pensive Kurt Weill medley scored for the trio — LOST IN THE STARS / HERE I’LL STAY:

And a few words about Swing 46 — it was a pleasure to be there in a congenial atmosphere — a large food-and-drink menu and a very welcoming staff. Next Tuesday, Dan will be back with the delightful Hilary Gardner (swinging, surprising, and introspective) and other luminaries to be announced, from 5:30 to 8:30. And at 9, the irreplaceable Michael Hashim leads noble friends — who have included Chris Flory and Kevin Dorn — in an impromptu session. That’s 349 West 46th Street, the north side, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. Leave your bedroom: put down the phone: Netflix will be here when you come back: what’s in the freezer is safe. Hear some restorative live music among like-minded friends.

May your happiness increase!

NOT SO SLEEPY: DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, ALLAN VACHE, DAN BLOCK, BOB HAVENS, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, PAUL KELLER, EDDIE METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 25, 2014)

SLEEP cover

The last song of the night, when both musicians and the audience are drained, is traditionally a rouser.  When everyone is overwhelmed by an evening of sensations, the leader might call for SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, or JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE to send the crowd to their rooms feeling exhilarated, feeling that they’ve got their money’s worth.  In truth, some of these spectacles seem formulaic, seasoned lightly with desperation: I would imagine that the last thing the band wants to do is to play Fast and Loud through weary lips and hands, but it’s expected of them.

I always think that calling AFTER YOU’VE GONE is an inside joke — a hot way of saying, “Could you go away, already?” to an audience that surely has had its fill.  (Audience members sometimes stand up and shout “MORE! MORE!” although they’ve been well and over-fed, and perhaps have talked through the last set.)  For Duke Heitger to call SLEEP as a closing tune is a nice bundle of ironies: it doubles as the kind suggestion, “Go to bed, so that we can stop playing and relax,” but it’s also a high-energy, spectacular jazz performance.  The song didn’t begin that way.  Here’s Fred Waring’s first recorded performance of it (he took it as his band’s theme):

So it began as lulling, soporific, but since 1940 (Benny Carter’s big band) and 1944 (Sid Catlett – Ben Webster) the song SLEEP has often been a high-powered showcase . . . as it is here, featuring Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Eddie Metz, drums. 

Please note all the fun these possibly-exhausted musicians are having: the glance Bucky gives Rossano when the latter begins the performance, “Oh, so THAT’s the tempo?!” and the delightful hi-jinks between Eddie, Paul, and Rossano (Eddie, especially, is the boy at the back of the classroom passing notes while Mrs. McGillicuddy is droning on about the Pyramids) — they way the horns float and soar; Duke’s idea of having an ensemble chorus in the middle of the tune (no one else does this); Bucky’s super-turbo-charged chord solo, Paul and Eddie taking their romping turns, all leading up to a very tidy two-chorus rideout. 

If you’re like me, one viewing won’t be enough: 

I don’t feel sleepy at all.

May your happiness increase!Bunk Johnson FB

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-Four) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

and . . . .
but we can’t exactly have that journey in real time and space just yet, so . . . .
join me: bring your Ears to the Ear Inn for the glorious music made on the night of January 2, 2011 (such a cornucopia of lovely sounds that this is the third posting from that Sunday). The first set ended with a desire for change . . . embodied by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; John Allred, trombone; Nicki Parrott, string bass, and guest Chuck Redd, playing wire brushes on the table nearby:

Then the opening salvo from an extraordinary jam session, with Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; John Allred, Emily Asher, Todd Londagin, trombone; Pete Martinez, Dan Block, clarinet; Lisa Parrott, alto sax; Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Chuck Redd, wire brushes. And can you find all the hilarious quotes from holiday / Christmas songs?

We live in hope. These heroes will play for us again, and we will cheer them on and thank them for their gifts.

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-Three) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

I don’t know what the headlines for Sunday, January 2, 2011, were — I would guess the usual mix of celebration and catastrophe. But if you were to measure global achievements and happiness by what happened at The Ear Inn that night, it stands as a milestone in Western Civilization. If you think I exaggerate, I suggest you sit back, watch and listen to the collective joys created by the EarRegulars and their best friends. Collectively, they are Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Tobias, Bria Skonberg (trumpets); John Allred, Emily Asher, Todd Londagin (trombones); Pete Martinez, Dan Block (clarinets); Lisa Parrott (alto sax); Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden (guitars); Nicki Parrott (bass); Chuck Redd (wire brushes). Ecstasy at The Ear! Here, in honor of Bix Beiderbecke and the Chicagoans:

Nothing foolish here, especially the rueful sentiments of this 1936 ballad:

First, it belonged to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band — it’s still stirring us more than a hundred years later:

There’s still more from this glorious nighttime explosion of hot music and community — we hope a harbinger of things to come. Their joyous welcome to 2011 still rings true a decade later.

And just in case someone might think I am ignoring Easter Sunday, may I respectfully submit this aural bouquet:

May your happiness increase!

https://syncopatedtimes.com

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-Two) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

Ear-Inn_rsz-1024x768Music first, credits below.  Ecstasy at the Ear!

Never did the threat of loneliness swing so hard:

The stuff that dreams are made on:

These musicians could spoil us for anyone else, don’t you think? This performance was part of an extraordinary jam session at The Ear Inn, on January 2, 2011, with Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Bria Skonberg (trumpets); John Allred, Emily Asher, Todd Londagin (trombones); Pete Martinez, Dan Block (clarinets); Lisa Parrott (alto sax); Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden (guitars); Nicki Parrott (bass); Chuck Redd (wire brushes). And in case you missed the glorious finale that I posted last week, make sure you’re seated securely and have a firm grip on that TIGER:

and the delightful concluding seconds.  The TIGER, last seen, was running north to Houston Street to get a snack of a lamb gyro, triple lamb, hold the pita, no red onions, at a Greek restaurant:

There’s more to come.  True in the larger sense, we hope and believe.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

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REMEMBERING KENNY (Part Two): Words BY MIKE KAROUB, HOWARD KADISON, JAMES CHIRILLO, KEVIN DORN, DAN BLOCK. Music by KENNY DAVERN, JOHNNY WINDHURST, CUTTY CUTSHALL, DAVE FRISHBERG, JACK SIX, CLIFF LEEMAN (1961)

 

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HOWARD KADISON:  Sunday nights, I’d sometimes go with Davern to Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant on Second
Avenue. The waiters were noted for their abrasiveness and truculence. Kenny would
bait them: “How are the blintzes?” “They’re always good.” “I didn’t ask about always, I
asked about NOW!” And so it would go, ending in a generous tip.

DAN BLOCK:  Kenny had a mind like an encyclopedia. His knowledge not only of jazz, but archival classical recordings was amazing. My last memory was hanging out with him in New Orleans after he played in a bookstore with Bob Wilber. He held court with three or four of us for about an hour and a half. It was unforgettable.

KEVIN DORN: Something he said to me, sitting at the bar of the Cornerstone: “It’s one thing to come up with your own sound in a style that’s brand new. But to come up with your own sound in a style that’s older, that was there already, is a different and difficult challenge.” I always thought that was a deep observation and something he certainly achieved.

JAMES CHIRILLO: Every note he played had a sound as big as a house, no matter the register, and every note had an intensity that said: “This is how it’s supposed to go.” I still miss him.

MIKE KAROUB: I was playing bass in Jim Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band and we played opposite Davern at a show at the University of Chicago, some time between 1990-92. He might have been there with Butch Thompson or his own group. (Butch had Franz Jackson also.)

I checked into the Blackstone Hotel. Never having met Davern, I saw him outside. I walked up to him in my trench coat – Kenny looking tough in a leather coat — and said, “Uncle Ken, I need a Lucky Strike.” (Or I may have said, “Kenny, give me a Lucky Strike,” but you get the idea.) He said, “OK, man,” and handed me one. He instinctively knew I wasn’t a real hood. We chatted for a second, then later, probably at the intermission. Strangely, I don’t recall if there was a closing number with massed bands, “all hands on deck,” so I have no recollection of playing with him!

I know that when we were teenagers, I told my dear friend Jon-Erik Kellso, “If I ever meet Davern, I’m going to wear a trench coat like the Detroit mafia and demand a Lucky Strike.” I think he was bemused by our. 25 year old impetuous behavior.

Ten years later, at the Atlanta Jazz Party, after my set with Banu Gibson, I went to catch Kenny’s set and sat in front. He waved, and after the show he came down to me. I said, “Uncle Ken, I brought us some Luckies.” He had exhausted his supply (he was very dedicated) so I was in like Flynn.

“Michael, my nephew, I am so glad you could make it.” He sat down, ordered us coffee, and told stories about being on the road with Jack Teagarden.

I have no idea how he knew who I was unless Jon-Erik tipped him off (although I barely saw Jon, who was a floating “all star”) or saw the program or remembered me from Chicago. I believe he smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes (unfiltered Camels his second choice). In any case, he acted like it was the biggest deal that I came to his show. And I was really some long lost relative. I was kept too busy for the rest of the festival to see Uncle Ken. Again or ever again, as it turned out. Ordinarily, I’m not that forward but. something told me this was a once in lifetime deal and to seize the day.

MICHAEL STEINMAN: I saw him a few times when I was still in college and shy (complicated by my attempts to record every note on some variety of tape). One Sunday, I’d seen him in the late afternoon at a Your Father’s Mustache Balaban and Cats session, and then my friend and I went down to the Half Note to hear Ruby Braff. Kenny walked in, I saw him, and exuberantly said, “Kenny!” and seeing his amused expression — part “Who the hell are you?” and part suppressed hilarity, I remembered my place in the cosmos and said, “Mister Davern . . . ” and he looked at me and said, in mock-hauteur, “Oh, pardonnez-moi,” gave me a satiric look and walked away.  When I saw him for the last time, in Denver, October 2006, I thought it prudent to leave that incident in the past.

And now for some delightful rare music.

The tape that follows (audio only) isn’t from my collection, but the dropouts vanish after three minutes.  Recorded by Dave Frishberg, It’s the only evidence I know of Kenny Davern’s Washington Squares, a band he loved, performing at Nick’s in 1961.  The repertoire is ancient; the inventiveness and energy are startling.  It’s Kenny, clarinet; Johnny Windhurst, cornet; Cutty Cutshall, trombone; Dave, piano; Jack Six, string bass; Cliff Leeman, drums.  I read in Edward N. Meyer’s biography of Kenny, JUST FOUR BARS, that Buzzy Drootin was the chosen drummer (imagine a world where your sub on the job is Cliff?), that Buzzy recommended Frishberg, and that Frishberg brought along Jack Six.  Unusual and uplifting partners for such a band, but everyone is in exceptional form.

Did I say we miss Kenny Davern?  We certainly do.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-One) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

There’s always some reason to celebrate.

Jazz fans of a certain vintage know the photographs of Fifty-Second Street jam sessions — in this case, Sunday afternoons at Jimmy Ryan’s in the early Forties, with every luminary within ten miles joining in on the closing BUGLE CALL RAG.  Or this pastoral little gathering, no doubt improvising on Debussy:

I see Hot Lips Page, Kenny Hollon, possibly Jack Bland, Pete Brown, and Marty Marsala, and I imagine Zutty Singleton or George Wettling.  Oh, yes, “Very Blowingly.”

By 1948 or so, the line of clubs on “Swing Street” — Fifty-Second between Sixth and Seventh — was gone, and now, even though there’s a street sign denoting past glories, no trace remains.  But Sunday nights at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, when the EarRegulars held court — as we hope they will again — were a divine evocation of that time and place.

Perhaps the most memorable and happy of New Year’s celebrations was January 2, 2011, with All The Cats Joining In.  I don’t exaggerate: Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; John Allred, Emily Asher, Todd Londagin, trombone; Pete Martinez, Dan Block, clarinet; Lisa Parrott, alto saxophone; Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Chuck Redd, wire brushes on paper tablecloth. Ecstasy at The Ear!

As we go backwards into time, and forwards also, here is the last glorious improvisation of that night, a nearly-sixteen minute TIGER RAG:

and the tail of that TIGER:

I look forward to a return of such ecstasies.  Join me at 326 Spring Street — in reality and in joyous memory — and let’s share a big portion of hope.

May your happiness increase!