Tag Archives: Dan Levinson

GEORGE AVAKIAN PRESENTS “ONE STEP TO CHICAGO: THE LEGACY OF FRANK TESCHEMACHER and THE AUSTIN HIGH GANG”: DICK HYMAN, KENNY DAVERN, DAN LEVINSON, PETER ECKLUND, DICK SUDHALTER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, KEN PEPLOWSKI, BOB HAGGART, MILT HINTON, VINCE GIORDANO, MARTY GROSZ, HOWARD ALDEN, ARNIE KINSELLA, TONY DeNICOLA (Rivermont Records, recorded July 31, 1992)

Three I’s: IMPORTANT, IRREPLACEABLE, and INEXPENSIVE.

But I’ll let Dan Levinson explain it all to us.

In 1992, legendary record producer George Avakian produced an album in homage to the pioneers of 1920s Chicago Jazz, known as The Austin High Gang, who had been among his most powerful influences when his love for jazz was developing. Those pioneers included Frank Teschemacher, Eddie Condon, Jimmy McPartland, Bud Freeman, Muggsy Spanier, Joe Sullivan, Gene Krupa, and others. Avakian’s 1992 recording featured two bands: one, directed by pianist Dick Hyman, which played Hyman’s note-for-note re-creations of the original recordings; and a second band, led by clarinetist Kenny Davern, which played its own interpretations of songs associated with the Chicago Jazz style, keeping the SPIRIT of the original artists close at hand. I was in the Teschemacher role in Hyman’s band, and had never been in a recording studio before. Avakian financed the whole project, but, sadly, was never able to find a label that was wiling to reimburse his cost and put the album out. The last time I went to visit George, in June of 2017, I asked him about the album again. Then 98 years old, he was clearly disappointed that it never came out, and he asked me to continue his search for a label and to “get it issued”. I exhausted my resources at the time, and wasn’t able to make it happen before George passed away several months later. Three years later, Bryan Wright, founder of Rivermont Records, rode in to save the day. And this month – thirty years after the original recording session took place – Avakian’s dream project is finally coming out on Bryan’s label as “One Step to Chicago: The Legacy of Frank Teschemacher and The Austin High Gang”. Bryan has – literally – spared no expense in assembling a beautiful package, which is actually a CD inside a booklet rather than a booklet inside a CD. I’ve written extensive liner notes detailing every aspect of the project, and there are also written contributions from author/record producer Hank O’Neal, guitarist Marty Grosz, and drummer Hal Smith, a specialist in Chicago Jazz style. I was able to track down the original photos from the recording session, and Bryan’s booklet includes a generous selection of them. I want to gratefully acknowledge the help of archivist Matt Snyder, cover artist Joe Busam (who designed the album cover based on Avakian’s 1940 78rpm album “Decca Presents an Album of Chicago Jazz”), the family of George Avakian, Hank O’Neal, Maggie Condon, and the New York Public Library, whose help in making this happen was invaluable. The album features a truly spectacular lineup of artists, including, in various combinations: Peter Ecklund, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dick Sudhalter, Dan Barrett, Ken Peplowski, Dick Hyman, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Bob Haggart, Milt Hinton, Vince Giordano, Arnie Kinsella, and Tony DeNicola.

The CD and digital download are available on the Rivermont Records website here. A vinyl version – a two-record set, in fact – will be available later this month.

And here is Rivermont founder (and superb pianist) Bryan Wright’s story of ONE STEP TO CHICAGO.

The details.

“Dick Hyman and his Frank Teschemacher Celebration Band” (Ecklund, Sudhalter, Kellso, Barrett, Levinson, Peplowski, Hyman, Grosz, Haggart, Giordano, Kinsella) play / recreate classic Chicago recordings from the Golden Era of free-wheeling jazz: ONE STEP TO HEAVEN / SUGAR / I’VE FOUND A NEW BABY / CHINA BOY / LIZA (Condon, not Gershwin) / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE: eighteen minutes in the most divine Hot Time Machine.

and “Kenny Davern and his Windy City Stompers” (Davern, Kellso, Barrett, Hyman, Alden, Hinton, DeNicola) going for themselves on THE DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL / WABASH BLUES / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART / THE JAZZ ME BLUES / BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? / INDIANA.

and — a bonus — a nearly nine-minute excursion on FAREWELL BLUES by the combined bands.

But I can hear someone saying, “Enough with the facts. How does it SOUND, Michael?” To which I respond without hesitation, “It sounds terrific. Finest kind. It delivers the goods — sonically, emotionally, and heatedly.”

I will give pride of place to the writers / scholars whose words and reminiscences fill the eighty-page booklet (complete with wonderful photographs) Dick Hyman, Hank O’Neal, Dan Levinson, Hal Smith, and Marty Grosz, explain and elucidate, as they do beautifully, the roles of George Avakian, Eddie Condon, Bix Beiderbecke, and two dozen other saints of Hot. That booklet is both perceptive and unabashed in its love for the people and the sounds, and it is more than worth the price of admission. Unlike much jazz writing about the hallowed past, it is also delightfully free of hyperbole and something I will politely call hooey.

The CD — aside from the booklet — has two wonderful selves. The first six performances are evocations of the original, classic, recordings, with musicians who know the originals by heart working from expert transcriptions by the Master, Dick Hyman. The business of “re-creation” is difficult, and I have gotten into trouble in the past when pointing out that in some cases it feels impossible. Great art comes hot from the toaster; it is innovative, imagined for the first time in those minutes in the recording studio. So re-creation requires both deep emotional understanding of the individuals involved, the aesthetic air they breathed, and expert sleight-of-hand to make a listener believe they are hearing the ghost of Tesch rather than someone dressed up as Tesch for Halloween.

But the re-creations on this disc are as satisfying as any I’ve heard, more than simply playing the dots on the page, but dramatically assuming the characters of the heroes we revere. They are passionate rather than stiff, and wonderfully translucent: when Ken Peplowski plays a Bud Freeman chorus, we hear both Bud and Ken trotting along in delightful parallel.

I confess that the second half of this disc makes my eyes bright and my tail wag: it isn’t “hell-for-leather” or “take no prisoners,” or whatever cliches you like to characterize the appearance of reckless abandon. What it presents is a group of sublime improvisers bringing all their knowledge and heart to the classics of the past, playing their personalities in the best ways. And each selection reminds us that however “hot” the Chicagoans prided themselves on being, lyricism was at the heart of their performances. I cherish INDIANA, performed at a rhythm-ballad tempo by Kenny Davern, Howard Alden, Milt Hinton, and Tony DiNicola, and the other band selections are full of surprises, pleasing and reassuring both. The closing FAREWELL BLUES has all the joy of a Condon Town Hall concert, and that is no small accomplishment.

And I can’t leave this without noting how lovely the recorded sound is — applause for David Baker, Malcolm Addey, and Peter Karl. I’ve heard more than two-thirds of these performers live, often at very close range, and this disc captures their sounds, their subtleties so marvelously.

This disc is a treasure-box of sounds and homages, with lively music from present company. I predict it will spread joy, and my only encouragement would be for people to for once shun the download, because they won’t get the book. It’s the Library of Alexandria transported to 35th and Calumet.

And here are some sound samples so no one need feel that they are purchasing on faith, although faith in these musicians and these producers would be wholly warranted.

May your happiness increase!

MARTY GROSZ AND HIS CHICAGOANS, SWEET AND HOT: JAMES DAPOGNY, JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, DAN LEVINSON, SCOTT ROBINSON, JON BURR, PETE SIERS (Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, September 19, 2014)

Martin Oliver Grosz by Lynn Redmile

Here’s a location in space and time where the past and present embrace, each retaining all their distinguishing features. That is, Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, and erudition, leading an ensemble at the 2014 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party in the song first introduced by Ethel Waters, SUGAR, that was then taken up by the Austin High Gang for their 1927 record date as “McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans.”

The noble creators are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, taragoto; James Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

It’s clearly impromptu (but all the great performances were in some part) from Marty’s heartfelt rubato solo chorus to the split-chorus solos with special reverence for James Dapogny’s piano in glittering solo and supportive ensemble. It’s confectionary. And memorable.

Incidentally, if, after enjoying Marty and his pals, you need more sugar in your bowl, try Ethel’s version, Louis’, and the Lee Wiley – Muggsy Spanier – Jess Stacy one. And of course the McKenzie-Condon version, which is playing in my mental jukebox as I type. Then follow your own impulses to heated sweetness.

May your happiness increase!

“OH BABY!”: ANDY SCHUMM, DAN LEVINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, ARNIE KINSELLA (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 19, 2013)

News flash: the song is OH BABY — with or without comma and exclamation point — thanks to Rob Rothberg for the gentle correction. But I don’t have the time to fix the PETTIN’ references, so I hope readers will forgive me my ignorances, plural. The music remains!

It’s a wonderful song — verse and chorus — first made memorable in jazz by Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines, then by Bud Freeman’s Summa Cum Laude Orchestra and several other Bix-inspired groups.

The undocumented but hot version I present here comes from September 19, 2013, at the informal-jam session held before the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend officially began. The hero-participants are (from the back) Arnie Kinsella, drums; Kerry Lewis, string bass; John Sheridan, piano; Dan Levinson, clarinet; Andy Schumm, cornet:

and, just because JAZZ LIVES needs a regal guiding spirit, here’s someone who is always teaching the lesson: know when to pet, know when to stop:

SWING IN THE SMALL ROOM: ANDY SCHUMM, DAN LEVINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 19, 2013)

My time machine won’t go back to 1935 and the Reno Club, nor to Fifty-Second Street, no matter how hard I twist the dials, but it does go back to 1970 — audio only — and 2009 — adding video. One of the great pleasures of this century for me was being allowed to bring my video camera to what was Jazz at Chautauqua and then took on different names and a different venue. We miss it terribly. But some wonderful evidence remains.

It was held during a long weekend late in September at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, and its founder Joe Boughton had certain rituals in scheduling. Friday afternoon, solo piano recitals in the parlor; Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon were for organized sets in the large ballroom.

A session in the ballroom — opening or closing ceremonies, c. 2012.

But Thursday night was informal, because musicians and guests arrived as they could — for me, it was about a seven-hour trip there whether I drove or flew to Buffalo — but certain rituals were observed. I believe the open bar opened itself around 5 PM, and the line for the buffet dinner began also. At around 6, music began in the smaller back room, and I learned quickly to bring my plate, my knapsack of video equipment there rather than dining like a civilized person at a table among others. (“I can always eat, but I can’t miss this set,” I reminded myself.)

I’m not exaggerating when I say some of the best musical moments of this century, for me, took place on those Thursday evenings. Sometimes the piano wasn’t perfect, or I had to sit behind friends and shoot video with their heads as part of the scenery, but those sessions are joyous memories. And they exist to be shared with the faithful. The little ad hoc groupings didn’t have official leaders, but someone might suggest a tune that everyone knew, they would agree on a ley and tempo, and magic would happen.

It did on Thursday, September 19, 2013, thanks to Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Andy Schumm, cornet; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums. They did three classic standards; they had fun; so did we.

A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT, which suggests what might have happened if Bix had lived into 1937:

Irving Berlin’s always-gratifying RUSSIAN LULLABY:

and, after some discussion, the 1928 SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE, more a sprint, and such fun:

There will be more, in time, and all memorable.

All hail the living Gentlemen of the Ensemble: long may they be vibrant. But, damn it, how we miss John Sheridan.

May your happiness increase!

STOMPING AT SUNDOWN: COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT at THE MORRIS MUSEUM, MORRISTOWN: MIKE DAVIS, VINCE GIORDANO, TROY ANDERSON, JULIAN JOHNSON, ARNT ARNTZEN, ALBANIE FALLETTA, DAN LEVINSON (June 10, 2021)

The band.
The scene, that hot night in Morristown.

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.

LOUISIANA:

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:

May your happiness increase!

YOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS: COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT at THE MORRIS MUSEUM, MORRISTOWN: MIKE DAVIS, VINCE GIORDANO, TROY ANDERSON, JULIAN JOHNSON, ARNT ARNTZEN, ALBANIE FALLETTA, DAN LEVINSON (June 10, 2021)

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.

May your happiness increase!

THREE MORE FROM A NIGHT BOTH HOT AND SWEET: COLIN HANCOCK’S RED HOT EIGHT at THE MORRIS MUSEUM, MORRISTOWN: MIKE DAVIS, VINCE GIORDANO, TROY ANDERSON, JULIAN JOHNSON, ARNT ARNTZEN, ALBANIE FALLETTA, DAN LEVINSON (June 10, 2021)

“Yeah, man.”

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.

May your happiness increase!

HOT SOUNDS AT TWILIGHT: COLIN HANCOCK, MIKE DAVIS, VINCE GIORDANO, TROY ANDERSON, JULIAN JOHNSON, DAN LEVINSON, ALBANIE FALLETTA, ARNT ARNTZEN at the MORRIS MUSEUM (June 10, 2021, Morristown, New Jersey)

Early in the evening: from left, Albanie, Arnt, Dan, Vince, Troy, Colin, Julian, Mike.

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.

May your happiness increase!

COME BACK TO LIFE! COME OUT FOR MUSIC!

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.

May your happiness increase!

“LATCH ON TO THAT RHYTHM” AND OTHER SWING TREATS: MICHAEL GAMBLE AND HIS VERY SWINGING FRIENDS

Michael Gamble amid friends. How many swing stars do you recognize?

In person, bandleader-string bassist Michael Gamble is quiet and unassuming, but he really knows how to swing.  It’s a pleasure to tell you about four new digital-EP releases by his virtual groups, now available at Bandcamp. Those who like can skip the rest of this post and go directly there to listen.

They sound great, which is particularly remarkable, considering how hard the musicians have to work to make music in “isolation sessions.”

Michael explains, “All recordings from this series were made remotely, each of the 18 musicians (from 9 states) playing either in their homes, home-studios, or whatever they could make work! Despite the logistical challenges, we were determined to make an artistically cohesive and exciting project. Sections were pieced together painstakingly to make sure that no part was recorded prior to something that it needed to react creatively to, which often required multiple takes by the same musician on the same tune, spread over weeks. We believe the result — while certainly different in feel than prior Rhythm Serenaders albums which were recorded live in a single room — is a special set of recordings with their own completely unique flavor. We hope they’ll be enjoyed for years to come!”

I can swear to that last sentence.  Without a hint of museum dustiness, it is as if Michael and friends lifted me out of my chair and teleported me to splendid sessions truly happening, let us say, between 1934 and 1947.  Or, if you prefer, he came to my house and gave me a waist-high stack of perfectly recorded 16″ transcription discs of all my heroes and heroines.  Both of those science-fiction scenarios require a suspension of disbelief: all you have to do to drink at the extraordinary Fountain of Swing is to go here and buy yourself and friends holiday and early-holiday and post-holiday presents.  (Friday, December 4, by the way, is one of Bandcamp’s special days where all the proceeds go to the musicians, with no fees deducted, so it’s a wonderful time to do this.)

The musical worlds (note plural) Michael and friends live in are so spacious that each of these has its own distinctive flavor, which I will try to describe.

Volume One, LATCH ON TO THAT RHYTHM, goes like this:
Somebody Loves Me / Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise / Lester Smooths It Out / Bounce Me Brother, with a Solid Four / Did I Remember? / Joe Louis Stomp / One Never Knows, Does One? and the musicians are Laura Windley, vocals (1, 4, 5, 7); Dan Levinson, clarinet / tenor; Noah Hocker, trumpet; Jonathan Stout, acoustic and electric guitars / Chris Dawson, piano; Michael Gamble, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  The overall flavor is multi-layered, with tastes of mid-Thirties Wilson and Billie, the Gramercy Five, and a splendid infusion of 1946 Aladdin and Keynote.  Even if the references mean little to you, hear how good the band sounds on JOE LOUIS STOMP.  And listen to Laura Windley work her magic on ONE NEVER KNOWS, DOES ONE? — that rarest of compositions, a song about the magic of love balancing frail hope and deep melancholy.  (By the way, it’s a Mack Gordon-Harry Revel creation from 1936, and although everyone knows it from Billie, it’s first sung by Alice Faye in a Shirley Temple film.  Consider that.)

Volume Two, EFFERVESCENT SWING, features
A Sunbonnet Blue (and a Yellow Straw Hat) / Coquette  / Me, Myself, and I / South / Am I Blue? / Sweet Sue / Effervescent Blues / Tickle-Toe, and some of the same rascals are present: Laura Windley (1, 3, 5); Dan Levinson (tenor 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; clarinet 5; alto 8); Chloe Feoranzo  (clarinet 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8; tenor 6); David Jellema, cornet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jonathan Stout; James Posedel, piano; Michael Gamble, Hal Smith.  The flavors — still delicious — are a little different.  Think the small-group Basie riffing of the Kansas City Six; toss with Reuss and Catlett seasonings; add some Commodore Condon rideouts; mix gently with the Charlie Christian – Benny Goodman Sextet (yes, I have those names in the right order); several tablespoons of 1938 Bobby Hackett, top with modern tailgate from Charlie Halloran, and you get the idea.  And the three songs associated with Billie — and sung gloriously by Laura — have sly arrangements that honor the period but don’t copy the records.  For one instance only, hear how the rideout of ME, MYSELF, AND I nods to LAUGHING AT LIFE, and Michael’s cross-dressing riffs that start off AM I BLUE remarkably.  So rewarding.  For musical samples, hie thyself to the Bandcamp page!

Volume Three, DIGGIN’ IN THE DEN, offers these daily specials: Good Morning Blues / Scuttlebutt / I’m Painting the Town Red / Tumble Bug / It’s Like Reaching for the Moon / Diggin’ in the Den / Honeysuckle Rose  — performed by these swing alchemists, Laura Windley (3, 5); Keenan McKenzie (clarinet / tenor); Gordon Au (trumpet); Jonathan Stout; Craig Gildner (piano); Michael Gamble; Riley Baker (drums).  Here, the recipe calls for a dark Kansas City groove (think Eddie Durham, Lips Page, Dick Wilson), with equal parts Gramercy 5 pre-bop gloss, Lady Day Vocalions (the gorgeous trumpet-tenor interplay at the start of IT’S LIKE REACHING FOR THE MOON) — all mixed together with modern ingenuity harking back to Basie and Ellington small groups but sounding fresh — even on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, which (admit it!) has been played to shreds in its various incarnations.

Volume Four THE GAMBLER, unwraps its digital box to reveal these gifts: Something to Pat Your Foot To / The Gambler / Smokey Shoulders / Sunday / Cotton Tail / Night Bloom / What’s the Fuss? / Bottoms Up.  The musicians radiating expert joy here are Laura Windley (4); Keenan McKenzie (clarinet and tenor); Jacob Zimmerman (clarinet and alto); Gordon Au; Lucian Cobb (trombone); Jonathan Stout; Chris Dawson; Michael Gamble; Josh Collazo (drums).  Here the aura is pleasantly situated between just-after-the-war sessions led by Sir Charles Thompson and Illinois Jacquet and the late-Forties Basie band.  I hear a good deal of mute work from the brass (all those not-terribly frightening snarls and growls) and glistening late-Forties electrified Reuss, with reed playing that soars and slides.  COTTON TAIL leaps over the fence likea caffeinated bunny, the originals stick in my head — always a good sign — and the last few tracks nudge so wondrously into what I’d call 1951 Clef Records territory.

If you’ve lost your way in the forest of words, the musical oasis can be found here.  I encourage you to visit there now, or December 4, or any old time.

Three things.  One is that I listened to all four discs in one sitting (a tea break between Two and Three doesn’t count) with delight, never looking at my watch.

Second, if you ever meet one of the Official Jazz Codgers who grumps, “Oh, these kids today try, but they don’t know how to swing,” I encourage you to box his ears with digital copies of this music — a wild metaphor, but you’ll figure it out — until he stops speaking nonsense.

Three, a paradox.  These are “isolation sessions,” with everyone miles apart, earbuds or headsets, praying for swing synchronicity — and that is a miracle itself.  (Ask any musician who’s participated in such rigors.)  But as I listen to this music, I feel much less alone — less isolated, to be exact.  Try it and see if you don’t feel the same way.

May your happiness increase!

A PRECIOUS BREW: BOB HAVENS, DAN LEVINSON, KEITH INGHAM (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 20, 2014)

I know it’s almost November, but the calendar is very forgiving when it comes to autumnal beauty, that is, until I have to take the snow shovel out of the closet.

Here, Kurt Weill’s gorgeous SEPTEMBER SONG is treated with love by this unusual trio: Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano — who performed at the 2014 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend in Chautauqua, New York:

Speaking of calendars, Bob Havens is 84 here: he’s a marvel.

Extra credit question: is SEPTEMBER SONG (lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) more memento mori or carpe diem?  Show your work.  Here’s the original version, sung by Walter Huston:

May your happiness increase!

LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF SWEETNESS: HARRY ALLEN, DAN BLOCK, BOB HAVENS, DUKE HEITGER, ANDY SCHUMM, RANDY REINHART, ANDY STEIN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK TATE, JOHN VON OHLEN (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 22, 2013)

Another of the wondrous ballad medleys that used to begin and end the splendid jazz weekend, Jazz at Chautauqua: here, from 2013.  And, because it’s daylight, it was the medley that sent us all home, exhausted by pleasure, on a Sunday afternoon.

The roadmap: After a few of the usual hi-jinks, the rescue squad finds a second microphone for Marty Grosz, Harry Allen plays EASY LIVING; Dan Block, DAY DREAM; Bob Havens essays CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN; Duke Heitger finishes off this segment with I KNOW WHY (And So Do You):

I had to put a new battery in at this point, so I missed a few choruses (you’ll see Dan Levinson leaving the stage — my apologies to Dan and the other musicians I couldn’t capture).

Then, Randy Reiinhart plays MY FUNNY VALENTINE; Andy Schumm follows, politely, with PLEASE; Andy Stein calls for LAURA; Marty takes the stage by himself for the Horace Gerlach classic IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN; Rossano Sportiello plays SOPHISTICATED LADY, so beautifully:

Those would have been the closing notes of the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua: another unforgettable interlude of music and friendship.  Bless the musicians, bless the shade of Joe Boughton and bless his living family, bless Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock.  Those experiences are unforgettable evidence that once, such things were beautifully possible, and we witnessed them — me, with a video camera.  How fortunate we were!

May your happiness increase!

 

WYMAN VIDEO TOOK A TRIP AND BROUGHT US BACK TREATS (September 20-21, 2014)

When a relative or friend returns from a trip, children sometimes burst out, free from polite inhibition, “What did you bring me?”  Adults may think this, yet the more well-brought up ones say, “Did you have a good time?”

But Wyman Video always brings us treats.

The 2015 photograph is of Laura Wyman of Ann Arbor, CEO of that enterprise, devoted to videography of jazz, dance, recitals, and more.  I first met Laura at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2013, when we were introduced by our mutual friend Jim Dapogny: she was part of the Michigan contingent there: Jim and Gail Dapogny, Pete Siers, Sally and Mick Fee.  Laura was then an expert still photographer then, but became an avid videographer less than a year later.

She’s been going through the archives of Wyman Video and has shared two early efforts with us — capturing music from the September 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party that we would never have experienced without her.

First, THE MOOCHE (originally a dance), with commentary, by Dan Levinson, clarinet / leader; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, taragoto; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Howard Alden, banjo; James Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.

Dan Levinson: “First, I don’t know that this tune has ever been attempted on 2 clarinets and tarogato, but there’s one thing I do know, for sure, is that the note that Scott is about to start on does not exist on that instrument! Never been played before!

The version of “The Mooche” that we played was my own transcription from the original Ellington recording, which featured three clarinets. Scott Robinson, in typical – and admirable – Scott Robinson fashion, showed up at the event with a tárogató instead of a clarinet. The tárogató is an instrument used in Hungarian and Romanian folk music that looks kind of like a clarinet but uses a different fingering system and has a smaller range. So I gave Scott the clarinet part that would be best suited to his instrument’s range. He looked at the music, worked out some fingerings, and then he was ready. Although I announced that the first note he was going to play was out of his instrument’s range, I didn’t realize that I had inadvertently given him the wrong clarinet part, and that it was TOTALLY out of his instrument’s range. There was no moment where he seemed concerned or hesitant. In a few seconds, he merely reinvented his instrument by working out fingerings for the notes that didn’t exist on it prior to that performance. There’s only one Scott Robinson on the planet!” – Dan Levinson, May 2020

THAT is completely memorable, no argument.  And a gift.

And since we need to live in a major key as well, here is Professor Dapogny’s romping chart on CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME, performed by Dan Block, clarinet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; James Dapogny, piano / leader; Marty Grosz, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass; John von Ohlen, drums:

Laura has excellent taste: visit her YouTube channel for more good sounds.

May your happiness increase! 

THE CAPTAIN STRIDES BY (Part One): JOHN ROYEN’S NEW ORLEANS RHYTHM and SOLO at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: DAN LEVINSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH (November 29 / 31, 2019)

An authenticated signature.

Festivals and jazz parties make it possible for me to greet old friends again and bask in their music, but a great thrill is being able to meet and hear someone I’ve admired for  years on record — people who come to mind are Bent Persson, Jim Dapogny, Ray Skjelbred, Carl Sonny Leyland, Rebecca Kilgore, Hal Smith (it’s a long list) and now the wonderful pianist John Royen, whom I met for the first time at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest.

At work / at play, 2014, with Marty Eggers and Katie Cavera.  Photo by Alex Matthews.

For John’s New Orleans Rhythm, the first set, he was joined by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Hal Smith, drums. I hear someone’s therapy dog, or an audience member was whimpering with delight.

SOME OF THESE DAYS:

WABASH BLUES:

WOLVERINE BLUES:

That was Friday.  We didn’t see John, and Conal Fowkes took his place at a set; we heard that John had decided (not really) on an internal home improvement, and had had a defibrillator installed at a nearby hospital.  This surprised me, because his beat has always been terribly regular.

But he reappeared magically on Sunday, looking like himself.  Virginia Tichenor graciously ceded some of her solo piano time so that he could play.  And play he did.

His solo playing was both assertive and delicate, spicy yet respectful of the originals.  John’s relations with the audience are so charming . . . and his playing, while not always fast or loud, is lively — lit brightly from within.

The Lion’s HERE COMES THE BAND:

ATLANTA BLUES, or MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR:

and John’s delightful improvisations on MY INSPIRATION:

There will be a Part Two: John with Joe Goldberg, Marty Eggers, Riley Baker, and a brief visit from John Otto.  An honor to encounter the Captain, who creates such good music.

May your happiness increase!

MIGHTY PROSPEROUS: MARTY GROSZ and his DIVIDENDS, 2013 and 2016 (ED WISE, DAN BLOCK, DANNY TOBIAS // JON-ERIK KELLSO, BILL ALLRED, DAN LEVINSON, SCOTT ROBINSON, EHUD ASHERIE, JON BURR, HAL SMITH)

I hope this news is true for everyone.

Source material, part one:

Part two:

Who knew that finance, 1933-style, could be such fun in this century? It is, when Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal, is setting policy and interest rates.

First, at the Mermaid Inn, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, with Ed Wise, string bass; Danny Tobias, cornet; Dan Block, clarinet, on May 17, 2013.  Don’t let the apocalyptic color hues scare you: it’s dark in there:

Those three videos have been accessible on YouTube.  But here’s one you ain’t tuned in yet . . . Marty, with Hal Smith, drums; Jon Burr, string bass; Ehud Asherie, piano; Bill Allred, trombone; Scott Robinson, taragoto, Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet: performed on September 17, 2016, at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party:

Let’s hope that everyone has good reason to sing along.  And Marty will celebrate his 90th birthday next year.  Talk about wonderful returns on investment.

May your happiness increase!  

A CORNER IN CHICAGO, SOME QUESTIONS OF TASTE

A corner in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood: Google says it is “18th and Racine”:

then, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer Andy Schumm:

then, some music that ties the two together: a performance of Andy’s own “18th and Racine” on September 13, 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, with Dan Levinson, Dan Barrett, John Sheridan, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malachi:

That’s an admirable piece of music, which nobody can deny.  The players are dressed in adult business attire, but they are neither stiff nor constrained; in fact, there’s a bit of unscripted comic repartee before they start to play.

I have been digging through my archives to find previously unknown performances from Jazz at Chautauqua, starting in 2011.  This video, this performance, was hidden in plain sight: it had been given to the larger YouTube public for free six years and a month ago.  I was dumbstruck to see that it had been viewed fewer than one hundred times.  Was it dull?  Was it “bad,” whatever that means?  Had the Lone YouTube Disliker come out of the basement to award it his disapproval?  No, none of those things.

I write this not because my feelings are hurt (Love me, love my videos, or the reverse) but because I don’t understand this lack of enthusiasm.

“Pop” music videos are viewed by millions, and the audience for “hot jazz,” “trad,” whatever you want to call it, is a crumb in the cosmic buffet.

But — follow me.  Invent a band with a clever name.  Let them sit in chairs on the street in the sunshine.  Let them be a mix of young women and young men.  Let them be emotive.  Let there be a washboard.  Perhaps one of the members is fashionably unshaven.  There are shorts, there are legs, there are sandals, there are boots.  No one wears a suit, because buskers have their own kind of chic, and it has nothing to do with Brooks Brothers.  If the members know who Strayhorn and Mercer are, they keep such knowledge to themselves.  They are very serious but they act as if they are raw, earthy, primitive.  Someone sings a vaguely naughty blues.

Mind you, this is all invention.

But let a fan post a new video of this imaginary group and in four days, eleven thousand people scramble to it.

I understand that my taste is not your taste.  And I know that anyone who privileges their taste (“I know what the real thing is.  I like authentic jazz!”) is asking for an argument.  But . . . .”Huh?” as I used to write on student essays when I couldn’t figure out what in the name of Cassino Simpson was going on.

Is this the triumph of sizzle over substance?  Is the larger audience listening with their eyes, a group of people in love with bold colors in bold strokes?  Is all art equally good because some people like it?

And if your impulse now is to reproach me, “Michael, you shouldn’t impose your taste on others,” I would remind you that imposition is not my goal and shouldn’t be yours, and that there is no schoolyard bully at your door threatening, “Like what you see on JAZZ LIVES or else, and gimme your lunch money!”

Everyone has an opinion.  I spoke with an amiable fan at a jazz festival.  I had been delighting in a singularly swinging and persuasive band, no one wearing funny clothes or making noises, and when I told her how much pleasure I was taking, she said, “That band would put me to sleep!  I like (and she named a particularly loud and showy assemblage whose collective volume was never less than a roar).  I replied, “Not for me,” and we parted, each of us thinking the other at best misguided.  Or perhaps she thought me a New York snob, and I will leave the rest of the sentence unwritten.  The imp of the perverse regrets now, perhaps six years later, that I didn’t ask in all innocence, “Do you like Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins?” and see what her reply was.

As the King says, “Is a puzzlement.”

Legal notice: no such band as described above exists, and any resemblance to a group of persons, real or imagined, is accidental.  No one in the 2013 performance video asked me to write this post in their defense, and they may perhaps be embarrassed by it, for which I apologize.  Any other questions should be directed to JAZZ LIVES Customer Service, to be found in the rear of our headquarters (look for the bright red cat door).  Thank you.

May your happiness increase!

FOR NOONE IN PARTICULAR: The CHICAGO CELLAR BOYS at the JUVAE JAZZ SOCIETY MINI-FEST: ANDY SCHUMM, DAVE BOCK, JOHNNY DONATOWICZ, JOHN OTTO, PAUL ASARO (Decatur, Illinois: March 30, 2019)

I had a wonderful time last weekend at the one-day jazz festival — the little party thrown by the Juvae Jazz Society in Decatur, Illinois.  Friendly kind people, hot music, sweet sounds, and good feelings in the Flatland.

The two bands I made the trek to hear are Petra van Nuis’ Recession Seven (more about them soon) and the Chicago Cellar Boys: Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Dave Bock, tuba; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar.

Andy made his name with most jazz audiences (I saw him, with Dave Bock, first in 2007, alongside Dan Barrett at Jazz at Chautauqua) as a hot cornetist, the closest thing to “the dear boy” possible.  But in the intervening years, he’s branched out to embody a whole variety of cornet styles, and he’s also shown himself to be a fine tenor player in the Jack Pettis mold, and a spectacular  clarinetist, evoking Tesch, Mezz, and Jimmie.  That’s Teschemacher, Mezzrow, and Noone for the newcomers.

The last fellow on that list — facetiously called “Jimmie No-One” by Kenny Davern, who loved his playing, is our subject today.  Noone’s little Apex Club band featured himself on clarinet, Doc Poston on alto, Earl Hines on piano, Bud Scott on banjo, Johnny Wells on drums, and Lawson Buford or Bill Newton on tuba.  This little band’s most remarkable trademark was the interplay between Noone and Poston, who had worked with Freddie Keppard and Doc Cook earlier.  Incidentally, I’m told that the Apex Club was at 330 East 35th Street on the South Side of Chicago.  Here is a current view of that address, not inspiring.  Sic transit gloria mundi.

Even though the architecture is obliterated, the music remains, so here are the Chicago Cellar Boys becoming the Apex Club Orchestra on two selections — one unrelated to Noone, the other a direct hit.

EL RADO SCUFFLE was in the band’s book, and I read somewhere that the club Noone’s group was working at was the El Dorado, but some letters were missing from the sign or some lights didn’t function.  If that was the Scuffle or something larger I can’t know: create your own stories to this soundtrack:

I associate KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE with Bunny Berigan, Bud Freeman, Joe Marsala, Vic Lewis, Eddie Condon, Jim Goodwin and Ray Skjelbred, Marty Grosz, Bobby Gordon, Dan Levinson — so it is a song with a wonderful pedigree. Here the Cellar Boys are already grinning, and Trouble has left the building — Trouble don’t like verses:

Delicious.  And more to come.

May your happiness increase!

GIBSON, STRAIGHT UP: BANU CHARMS US ONCE AGAIN (Jeff and Joel’s House Party, October 13-15, 2017)

Banu Gibson is someone I admire greatly — not only for her expressive, swinging singing, but for her quick-witted stage presence and her deep affectionate knowledge of the songs and their composers.  So it was a great pleasure to see and hear her at the October 2017 party co-led by Jeff Barnhart and Joel Schiavone.  She was accompanied by Jeff, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass, bass saxophone, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums; Dan Levinson, reeds; Jim Fryer, trombone; Mike Davis, trumpet.

Thanks to Eric Devine, kind-hearted and efficient man of many cameras, we now have some video of Banu in performance to share.  (Eric’s YouTube channel is CineDevine and his videos from many festivals and performances are just superb.)

Here, Banu confesses that there are some things she might not know — hard to believe, but necessary for the sake of the song:

and here, a song for your board-certified ophthalmologist (with Dalton Ridenhour at the piano):

Banu is based in New Orleans, so it was a real treat to have her in the tri-state area for even this short visit.

May your happiness increase!

GOIN’ TO SAN DIEGO (November 22-26, 2017)

The poster says it all:

But some additional choruses.  First, the “almost final schedule” can be found here.  That schedule shows so many musical delights going on at any given time that anticipated pleasure is mixed with anxiety: “How will I see and hear everyone I want to?”  We should all have such problems, of course.

There’s no substitute for the experience of being there and hearing the music as it is created, but here are a few videos.  One is something delightful from 2015, the triumph of Rena Jean Middough, here.

A lovely swinging performance from the next year, here.  Some folks who know what swing is, also from 2016, here.  And some heroic stomping, here.

If I haven’t video-recorded your favorite band at San Diego, there’s only so much one person with admittedly narrow tastes can do.  So you can 1) check YouTube for more videos of THE AIR-DRIED PLUOTS (you’ll know them by their polo shirts) or 2) book a flight and get there while Joy is still Unconfined.

A few lines about travel arrangements.  This year, I was sure that I had booked a flight to San Diego a few months ago; checking online, I saw I had not.  Since it looked as if re-booking the same flight (from New York) would cost more than two thousand dollars, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  (One of my neighbors knocked to inquire.)  But I persevered, and secured a flight — the same days and times, with a few minutes’ difference — for the lowest fare I’ve ever seen for Thanksgiving.  All things are possible.  Be brave.  I’ll see you there.

May your happiness increase!

PARTY FAVORS (from Jeff and Joel’s 2017 House Party)

I had a fine time at Jeff (Barnhart) and Joel (Schiavone)’s House Party, which I described here.  Modern technology has made it so that we never have to say “The song is ended.”  Here are a few delicious souvenirs.

First, I decided to bring my still camera: thus . . . .

Vince Giordano, Dan Levinson, Mike Davis

and the new two-trumpet team:

Fred Vigorito, Jim Fryer, ablaze.

But those pictures are still and silent.  Comes Eric Devine, videographer par excellence and the CEO of CineDevine, to fill in the gaps.

Here Comes The Band:

and some more piano for two, or four:

Did you miss this Party?  Well, make plans to be available in Guilford, Connecticut, October 12-14, 2018.  Details to come here — not just yet, but I’ll let you know.

May your happiness increase!

HALF A LOAF IS STILL DELICIOUS: NOTES FROM JEFF AND JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY (October 13-15, 2017)

One of the lines attributed to Mae West is “Too much of a good thing . . . can be wonderful.”  I agree with this, but I wonder what Miss West would say about the following report I am turning in, incomplete but enthusiastic, from “Jeff and Joel’s House Party,” with Jeff being pianist / singer / raconteur Barnhart and Joel being banjoist / singer / master of ceremonies Schiavone.  The party took place this preceding weekend at the Elks in Branford, Connecticut.  (I can check my GPS for the exact address on South Montowese Street if you need to know.)

Aside from Jeff and Joel, the participants were Banu Gibson, vocal and stories; Vince Giordano, tuba, bass sax, string bass, vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor; Noel Kaletsky, clarinet and soprano; Kevin Dorn, drums; Frank Tate, string bass; Fred Vigorito, trumpet; Mike Davis, cornet and vocal; Jim Fryer, trombone, vocal, and trumpet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Tom Boates, trombone and vocal; Tom Palinko, drums.  (There were also many lovely people who didn’t sing or play instruments who made the Party even better than simply having musicians perform in a room.)

If you missed this one, the next JJHP is October 12-14, 2018.  Mark it down.

Some details about the Party, for those unfamiliar.  This one was the eighth, spread over seven years.  (It was the third I’ve attended.)  And there are four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Food and drink are also available — ample varied food and a well-stocked bar, included.  (I thought it a lovely sign on Saturday afternoon that the bartender had nothing to do: people were preferring to listen rather than drink.)

Incidentally, if you are wondering, “Was any of this recorded?” the answer is YES — by my very amiable and technologically-wise friend Eric Devine (getting moral support from the splendid hiker Sherral Devine) — so that there will be some videos of performances the musicians approve.  This, of course, left me free to roam around, purple notebook in hand, like a free person, so I enjoyed the out-of-doors now and again and for once was not in a monogamous relationship with my tripod.

Traditionally, Friday night at the Party has been a concert of sorts — two sets by one band or group.   Last year it was Paris Washboard, and I hear they will be back in 2018.  At this Party, Friday night was given over to Banu Gibson, the one, the only, and a nice small band of Jeff on piano, Vince on everything he’d brought plus vocals, Dan Levinson on reeds, and Tom Palinko on drums.

Banu is not only a wonderful singer and story-teller (more about that later) but an engaging informal scholar, whose introductions are conversational but always erudite.  She’s done her homework and more, and whatever she says comes out of her deep love of the songs, their creators, and their singers.

She’s also devilishly quick-witted, so that even if her ad-libs are familiar bits of material, they never seem defrosted and microwaved.  I arrived on Friday in the middle of a brisk run-through, and in between songs Banu turned to us, half-affectionate, half-naughty schoolmarm, to say, “Now don’t you make any mistakes, you folks who are here early.”  In her third tune, DOIN’ THE UPTOWN LOWDOWN, after Jeff Barnhart had rippled through something delightful, she turned to him and said fervently, “God! How I’ve missed you!”

But her program was far more than comedy.  She gave us dear vibrant performances of songs with verses: Berlin’s PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ, Fats’ I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, Hoagy’s MOON COUNTRY and a quicker-than-plausible THE MONKEY SONG, AIN’T GOT A DIME TO MY NAME from one of the Road pictures, the melancholy YOU LET ME DOWN from her most recent CD (which is a wonder), and a rollicking JUST IN TIME.  For variety’s sake, Vince sang and played IDA and IF I HAD YOU — reminding us of his many talents.  Dan summoned up middle-period BG on clarinet and perhaps Eddie Miller on tenor; Tom Palinko kept to brushes and swung quietly.  In the second set, Banu showed off even more of her versatility, moving easily from LULU’S BACK IN TOWN to the Gershwins’ I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT to the ancient WHERE DID ROBINSON CRUSOE GO (WITH FRIDAY ON SATURDAY NIGHT) which had several choruses of vaudeville joy.  For DO SOMETHING, Banu became Helen Kane, for SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON, she led quite a successful sing-along.  Vince charmed us again with I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU and DINAH — so nice to see him in this setting — and then Banu told at length the sad story of Johnny Mercer, Judy Garland, and Ginger Mercer, leading into a touching rendition of I REMEMBER YOU.  She ended her concert with three more tart offerings: the revenge ballad I WANNA BE AROUND, Porter’s MAKE IT ANOTHER OLD-FASHIONED, PLEASE, and THIS CAN’T BE LOVE.  Everyone looked elated and fulfilled, and we promised to regroup Saturday morning.

Saturday began with what Jeff called THE NEW YORK INVASION — a band made up of musicians based in Manhattan, approximately — Mike Davis, Jim Fryer, Dan Levinson, Dalton Ridenhour, Vince Giordano, and Kevin Dorn — who summoned up Condon’s 1956 with THAT’S A PLENTY and a Teagardenish A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY with a sweet Fryer vocal.

Because the Party is not run on “jazz party” principles — no forty-minute showcases for one group at a time — the next group, dubbed THE SUBURBAN RESPONSE by Jeff, was completely different: Fred Vigorito, Noel Kaletsky, Tom Boates, Jeff himself, Frank Tate, Tom Palinko, Joel Schiavone — and it had a distinctly “New Orleans” cast with a very fast BOGALUSA STRUT and the nice homage to Bix in I’LL BE A FRIEND WITH PLEASURE (although it was more “Condon” out of BIXIELAND than the 1930 Victor notion).

Banu returned with Mike, Dan, Kevin, Vince, and Jeff for her ebullient I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM (which should be her official theme song), YOUR MOTHER’S SON-IN-LAW with the rarely-heard verse, and FEELIN’ HIGH AND HAPPY.  In the interests of full disclosure, she told us that it was too early to make jokes about that title.

My notes are slightly congested from this point, since I began to actually have conversations with people while standing outside and hearing the music.  I recall Dalton’s beautiful solo verse to I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING, and later Saturday he performed a gorgeous LOVE WILL FIND A WAY — with Jeff watching him intently — and a shake-the-building reading of James P.’s JINGLES.

Dan Levinson assembled his Original Dixieland Jazz Band centennial edition, Mike, Jim, Kevin, Jeff, and himself, and they made the Victors come alive — LIVERY STABLE BLUES and PALESTEENA.

Joel had a feature on a slow-drag LAST NIGHT ON THE BACK PORCH, which moved some of the audience to get misty over shared Your Father’s Mustache experiences.

Banu and Dalton did some touching duets, but their sweet quality is mostly obliterated in my recollection by Banu’s story of being a young performer working with a Your Father’s Mustache bill — and on that bill was a man whose act was called HAM AND EGGS because it featured a piglet and a chicken.  The piece de resistance, Banu told us, was his feature on TIGER RAG, where he made the piglet squeal in place of the tiger roaring.  If you need more details, you should ask Banu herself: her version was politely graphic, but I wasn’t the only man wincing.

A band devoted to “West Coast style,” which means to this crowd Lu Watters rather than Gerry Mulligan, assembled: Fred, Jeff, Jim Fryer on second trumpet, superbly, Vince, Noel, Tom Boates, Kevin, Joel, for Maceo Pinkard’s STORYVILLE BLUES and a lengthy romp on CANAL STREET BLUES, featuring two-trumpet fisticuffs, as requested by Jeff.  Later, a two-trombone conversation on ROSETTA, Noel and Dan on I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY, and a very sweet I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE for two trumpets, with young Mike getting in some lyrical Butterfieldiana.

Banu offered both story and song of BLUE SKIES, Hoagy’s MEMPHIS IN JUNE, and the Gershwins’ NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT; Joel followed with an extended BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME.

Levinson’s ODJB reassembled for Berlin’s I LOST MY HEART IN DIXIELAND and a truly splendid ALICE BLUE GOWN that began as a sedate 3/4 and ended up with a Chicagoan fervor that reminded me so much of the jam sessions at Squirrel Ashcraft’s house in the Thirties.  In between, something even more wonderful.  Dan told the audience about “rag-a-jazz,” and then said that this group was so well versed in the style that he sometimes asked for requests from the audience for jazz material out and away from that era.  Someone called out LIMEHOUSE BLUES, and Dan vetoed that as too familiar, since it was written in 1922, but a more daring listener suggested TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, and they played it splendidly: one could hear its lines and contours powerfully, but its heart was in 1920.  It was a remarkable performance, and in its way, it captured the flexible, imaginative heart of this party.  A few other songs followed, but I was still hearing that TRAIN in my mind.

Various circumstances, all unexpected, made me miss the second half of the Party, which I regret.  But if this doesn’t seem like hugely pleasing musical plenitude, I don’t know what more I can say.  I will share videos when Eric creates and shares them . . . . but they aren’t the real thing.

As I wrote above, the next JJHP is October 12-14, 2018.  Why miss out on the fun?

May your happiness increase!

MAKING THE MONTH SO MUCH BETTER: JEFF AND JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY (October 13-14-15, 2017, Guilford, Connecticut)

For me, October’s always been a long period to get through, a landscape of four weeks.  When I was a child, it was a slow trudge to Halloween (a holiday I no longer find thrilling); as a homeowner, it was four weekends of leaf raking.  If your birthday is in October, you might feel differently, and I apologize.

But October is now distinguished for me because of Jeff and Joel’s House Party, much better than Halloween — no need for costumes and no incentive to stuff down candy.  It’s already a long-running institution, having been born in February 2012.  This year it will take place on October 13-14-15, technically in Guilford, Connecticut, although the three sessions of music will be at the Branford Elks Club, 158 South Montowese Street, Branford, Connecticut. There will be a session on Friday night from 7:30 to 9:30; two Saturday sessions: 11 to 4, then 5 to 10 (with a buffet and cash bar), and a Sunday session from 11 to 4 (again with a buffet).  The Friday session is priced separately ($50); there are single-session tickets ($80) or a three-session admission for Saturday and Sunday ($225).  More details and a registration form here.

And they do indeed SWING THAT MUSIC:

And the news from Dan Levinson:

Friday, October 13 through Sunday, October 15 I’ll be at Jeff & Joel’s [8th annual] House Party at the Branford Elks Lodge in Branford, CT, along with an all-star lineup of musicians. The Friday night session, which begins at 7:30 pm, will feature the phenomenal vocalist Banu Gibson from New Orleans, along with Jeff Barnhart (piano), Vince Giordano (bass/tuba/bass sax), Tom Palinko (drums), and yours truly. There are two sessions on Saturday – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm – and one session on Sunday, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The Saturday and Sunday sessions will feature a cornucopia of musicians, assembled in various combinations: Fred Vigorito (trumpet), Mike Davis (cornet), Tom Boates (trombone), Jim Fryer (trombone), Noel Kaletsky (reeds), Dan Levinson (reeds) [a familiar name, perhaps], Jeff Barnhart (piano), Dalton Ridenhour (piano), Joel Schiavone (banjo), Banu Gibson (banjo), Vince Giordano (bass/tuba/bass sax), Frank Tate (bass), Tom Palinko (drums), and Kevin Dorn (drums). A full buffet-style meal is included with each session. Seating is limited, to preserve the intimate “house party” atmosphere, so don’t wait to buy tickets! Tickets/info: www.jeffandjoelshouseparty.com.

My friend Eric Devine has faithfully video-recorded the Parties for some time now, and if you visit here, you can immerse yourself in his fine video coverage — some 59 videos of this Party alone.

I’m going to be there, although as a Free Spirit, walking around and enjoying the sounds, so I hope you’ll join me.  For those who need to see it in the papers, here are three pages to pore over.  I hear that only a few seats are still available, so please make haste so you won’t be disappointed.

Page Two:

 

Now you know it all.

May your happiness increase!