Yesterday, I presented the first half of this joyful set:
Here are the remaining performances by Duke Robillard, guitar; Marc Caparone, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Dan Walton, keyboard; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.
I NEVER KNEW:
IF I HAD YOU:
ALL I DO IS DEAM OF YOU (vocal Dawn Lambeth):
And onwards to 2023:
You can hear Duke say, “You know you’re in the right place,” and Mister Robillard’s judgment is impeccable.
Lord Byron wrote, “… let joy be unconfin’d.” He didn’t make it to the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California, but everyone on this set took his words to heart.
Duke Robillard brought his swinging bluesy self and his guitar for a set with trumpeter Marc Caparone’s Back O’Town All-Stars: Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Dan Walton, keyboard and vocal; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.
Honoring Sidney Catlett while remaining completely himself: that’s what the masterful artist-percussionist Josh Collazo does here in spellbinding ways. It was the set closer of Marc Caparone’s Back O’Town All-Stars set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival because nothing — except perhaps SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH or the national anthem could follow that.
And for those of us who understand the music, STEAK FACE (named for Louis’ Boston terrier, a happy carnivore) IS a national anthem. It’s thrilling, a complete drama embodied on a drum set.
The band is modeled on Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, majestically. Marc Caparone, trumpet, vocal; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums. This marvelous six-minute natural event took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka, California, September 30, 2022:
Josh inhabits the world of that solo so splendidly that it would be an affront to post a photograph of Big Sid here. But I hope he’ll forgive me for posting the source of this composition’s title: “General,” Louis Armstrong’s Boston terrier (Joe Glaser bred dogs) who obviously had deep culinary awareness:
but the real story is told here . . . STEAK FACE in action!
I apologize if the canine candids have distracted you from the glories Josh and the band create — music, to paraphrase Whitney Balliett, that makes you want to dance and shake and shout. All in six minutes: beyond remarkable.
“Mahogany Hall,” Lulu White’s ‘Octoroon Parlour,'” photograph by E. J. Bellocq:
The Spencer Williams composition it inspired:
Into the present for a band modeled on Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, majestically. Marc Caparone, trumpet, vocal; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.
They performed two sets at the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka, California, and the wondrous seismic uproar hasn’t quieted down yet.
Power and delicacy, an eye to the details and a rollicking energy. More to come!
Some people want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the pyramids at Tulum, the Northern Lights . . . . I’ve done some of those things, but what I want in 2022 is to return to the Redwood Coast Music Festival. Keep your monuments: they’ll be around in November. This festival is enduring, but it was made to take a nap in 2020 and 2021 for reasons that should be clear. I was there in 2019 and had the time(s) of my life. So, in less than three weeks, “if the creeks don’t rise,” or “if breath lasts,” (you pick) the OAO and I will be there, grinning and eager, flushed with anticipation.
I should say right here that this post is an unsubtle but perhaps necessary encouragement to all my jazz friends and colleagues to get off their couches and chairs, stop inspecting those books and labels, and enjoy the real thing, fresh, vivid, and multi-hued.
To make it easier to buy tickets, hear sound samples, have questions answered, and more, visit http://rcmfest.org/ (and be dazzled). If someone’s name is unfamiliar to you, the site is the equivalent of an old-fashioned record store’s listening booth.
Kris Tokarski and Hal Smith will be there:
Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, and Dan Walton too:
Jonathan Doyle, Steve Pikal, and Charlie Halloran will be around:
Dave Stuckey and Western Swing pals as well:
Island spice from Charlie and the Tropicales:
Carl Sonny Leyland also:
Thursday and Friday, September 29 and 30:
Again, friends and connoisseurs, that’s http://rcmfest.org/. It is a very congenial experience — even the musicians I know, who are often downtrodden and vocal about it, praise the management, the environment, and more. Good sound technicians, volunteers who don’t shoot first and ask questions later, and a strip of good restaurants in Eureka, a town with a lovely mural and kind feelings.
Also, if you haven’t gleaned it from the schedules, the RCMF is beautifully expansive.
I went to my first jazz party / weekend / festival in 2004, so I speak from experience. As budgetary pressures made themselves ominously evident, festivals shrank. There might still be five sets a day, but the cast of characters was a dozen musicians, changing places on stage. A certain airlessness set in, as if we’d paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet and every dish was based on canned salmon and green beans. And such constriction made itself heard in the setlists.
No, the RCMF has many musicians, simultaneous sets, and a variety of approaches: zydeco, rhythm’n’blues, soul, New Orleans jazz, piano boogie-woogie, Fifty-Second Street flavors, Western Swing, country, Americana, “roots,” Louis, Jelly, Duke, Joplin, and everyone in between. I delight in the rich menu; I despair of getting to hear all the good sounds.
I won’t run through the usual didactic sermon about how festivals require active support (I mean people willing to go there and pay for the music) but I will note that every time a jazz fan doesn’t go to a festival when they could have, an angel dies. Clarence never gets his wings. Do you want that on your conscience?
TEN YEARS, by the Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith Western Swing All-Stars:
JULIANNE, by Charlie [Halloran] and the Tropicales:
I am very excited by this news that the Redwood Coast Music Festival is returning. It gives my native optimism fertile soil to grow in. This festival is a friendly sustained explosion of some of the best musical talent I know.
Here are some of the glorious people who will be there, singing and playing. Dave Stuckey, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Twerk Thomson, Kris Tokarski, Charlie Halloran, Jonathan Doyle, Joel Paterson, Dawn Lambeth, Brian Casserly, Dave Bennett, T.J. Muller, Katie Cavera, Jacob Zimmerman, Duke Robillard, Jessica King, Ryan Calloway, Riley Baker, Chris Wilkinson, James Mason, Jamey Cummins, Josh Collazo, Tom Rigney, Sam Rocha, Nate Ketner, Dave Kosymna, Alex Hall, Beau Sample, Dan Walton, John Gill, Jontavious Willis, Brian Holland, Danny Coots, and more. And more.
The festival runs from Thursday evening to Sunday evening (September 29 to October 2) and there are either five or six simultaneous sets. Simultaneous. I emphasize this because I got the most charming vertigo trying to plot a course through the tentative schedule, an exercise in Buddhist non-attachment or chess (which I never learned): “I want to see X at 5:30 but that means I can’t see Y then, but I can see Y the next day.”
I’ve only been to Redwood Coast once, in 2019, a transcendent experience and I don’t overstate: the only festival that made me think longingly of hiring a camera crew of at least two friends so that we could capture some portion of the good(ly) sounds. one of the nicest things about this festival is its broad love of energized passionate music: jazz, blues, swing, country, zydeco, soul, rhythm and blues, “Americana,” “roots” — you name it.
Did I mention that there’s room for dancing?
Are some of the names listed above unfamiliar to you? Go here to learn more about the artists and see videos of their work
You can buy tickets here. And maybe you’ll think this is the voice of entitlement, but an all-events pass — four days! — is $135, at least until August 1.
Here’s one more musical convincer from 2019:
Remember, every time it rains it rains PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — in this case, rare musical experiences. But you can’t catch them in your ears or outstretched hands by staying at home.
I did not take the pandemic lightly, and I spent a good deal of last year scared to bits . . . but I’m going. And I hope you will also, if you can.
Details here — but I know you want more than just details.
Although for those who like it very plain, some elementary-school math: four days, more than a hundred sets performed at eight stages, from intimate to huge. Dance floors. And the festival is wonderfully varied, presenting every kind of “roots music” you can imagine: “jazz, swing, blues, zydeco, rockabilly, Americana, Western Swing, country.”
Off the top of my head — when I was there in 2019, I heard the music of Charlie Christian, Moon Mullican, Pee Wee Russell, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, Pete Johnson, Billie Holiday, and much more. Bob Wills said howdy to Walter Donaldson, which was very sweet.
And here are some of the jazz and blues artists who will be there: Carl Sonny Leyland, Duke Robillard, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Jonathan Doyle, Jacob Zimmerman, Dan Walton, Marc Caparone, Joe Goldberg, Bill Reinhart, Joshua Gouzy, Joel Patterson, Katie Cavera, Dawn Lambeth, Clint Baker, Kris Tokarski, Nate Ketner, Brian Casserly, Josh Collazo, Ryan Calloway, and two dozen other worthies whose names don’t yet appear on the site. And of course, bands — ad hoc units and working ones.
For the justifiably anxious among us, here is the RCMF’s Covid update: several things stand out. First, California has mandated that ticket sales must be in advance. And understandably, there will be fewer people allowed in any space . . . so this translates for you, dear reader, as a double incentive to buy tickets early. I know that festivals always urge attendees to do this, but you can see these are atypical reasons.
How about some musical evidence?
CASTLE ROCK, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:
WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, by Dawn Lambeth and her Quartet:
REACHING FOR SOMEONE, by the Doyle-Zimmerman Sextet:
HELLO, LOLA! by Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:
SAN ANTONIO ROSE, by Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith’s Western Swing All-Stars:
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, by Marc Caparone and his “Louis Armstrong All-Stars”:
If the videos don’t act as proof, my words may be superfluous. But to paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog and I’ll write if I want to.”
I come to this festival-jazz party circuit late — both late for me and for the phenomenon — September 2004. Chautauqua, California, Connecticut, Newcastle, Westoverledingen, and others. I’ve attended a hundred of them. Meaning no offense to any festival organizer, I think Redwood Coast delivers such quality and such range that it is astonishing. I told Mark Jansen that it was the SUPERMARKET SWEEP of festivals: so much to pick up on in so short a time. And readers will understand that my range is narrow: there is much music on the list of genres above that doesn’t stir me, although it might be excellent.
However: in 2019 I came home with over 150 videos in four days of enthusiastic observation-participation. I slept as if drugged on the plane ride home. I’d been perforated by music of the finest kind.
I also need to write a few darker sentences.
There is a blessed influx of younger people — dancers, often — to music festivals like this one. But festivals are large enterprises, costly to stage and exhausting to supervise. Those of us who want to be able to see and hear live music must know that this phenomenon needs what realistic promoters call Asses in Seats.
So if you say, “Well, I’ll come in a few years when I’m retired,” that’s understandable. But Asses at Home mean that this festival, and others, might not wait for you. Grim, but true.
So I hope to see you there. There are a million reasons to stay at home. But who will come in and dust you?
This post is full of emotion for me, and I hope for some of you: not just the music but the reality under the music, the world in which we now read and hear and attempt to proceed.
I offer you two lovely performances of songs by Irving Berlin and by George and Ira Gershwin, by Dawn Lambeth, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass — created for us at the Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California, on May 11, 2019.
The beginning of this story is the last live jazz I saw — at Cafe Bohemia in New York City, celebrated elsewhere on this blog — on March 12, 2020. And even then people were [wisely, politely, perhaps tactfully] recoiling from one another, because who knew that your dear friend didn’t carry a double helping of death?
A few nights earlier, people were giving each other elbow bumps in lieu of closer contact, and when I, without thinking, shook the hand of a new acquaintance, we both looked at each other in embarrassment and shock, and we both muttered apologies, as if we’d taken an unseemly liberty. I know all this is prudent and exceedingly necessary — more so than choosing to wash the apple one buys at the farmers’ market before devouring it. But it adds to the despair.
It’s now almost June, and we greet each other as if we were grenades — and with reason. I know I am not alone in feeling the deadly deprivation of human contact (I have been hugging people — those I know and who would not back away — for perhaps a decade now, because it seems a natural loving expression) and the emotional aridity that distance imposes. Grinning and waving is an incomplete substitute. Hugging oneself just ain’t the same thing. You know this.
Because there is no live music for me to drink in and to video-record, I have been delving into my YouTube archives, which go back to 2006, in search of satisfying performances that the artists will allow to be shared. It is easier, of course, for me to pretend I am at the Ear Inn by watching a video than to pretend that I am hugging and being hugged, but it, too, is only a small palliative.
My searching, thankfully, has borne fruit, and I have found a goodly number from the Redwood Coast Music Festival, which — on my 2019 visit — seemed the perfection of the art form. It did not happen in 2020, but those of us who feel such things deeply pray that it will in May 2021.
In the set called featuring Dawn Lambeth and her Quartet, Dawn and the wonderful people I’ve mentioned above performed two songs that are poignant in themselves, but in connection almost unbearably so for what they hold out to us as possibilities unreachable at the moment.
The first is Berlin’s WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, which tells that that there will be “Peace and contentment at the end of the road”; given this tender reading, it’s hard to interpret this song as anything but hopeful, even though the road is longer and darker than perhaps even Berlin imagined:
Three songs later in the set, Marc chose as his feature EMBRACEABLE YOU — thinking, as one would, of Bobby Hackett:
The combination of the two songs is somber and lovely all at once.
I dare not waste energy on discussing what “the new normal” will look like: rather, my wish is that all of us live to see and experience it. But I do dream that the end of the road we are now on will have a plenitude of embraces given and received. We will never again, I hope, take such things for granted.
Thanks to the musicians here and to the people who make the Redwood Coast Music Festival possible and glorious, and of course heartfelt thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen. Let this post stand as an IOU for future grateful embraces.
Clint Baker, Marc Caparone, Jeff Hamilton, Dawn Lambeth, Little Charlie Baty at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 2019
The profoundly swinging guitarist and admirable man Little Charlie Baty has died of a coronary at 67. I promised myself I would not make this site a necrophile’s amusement park, but I make exceptions for people I knew, people who made strong impressions, and Charlie was one. I was only in contact with him last May, but his loss is fierce to me.
Saturday night, Marc Caparone joined the conversation at the Jazz Bash by the Bay to tell us that Charlie was gone. I was physically stunned. It was sadly appropriate that we should get the news from Marc, because he was the first person to ever mention Charlie’s name — this guitarist who played just like Charlie Christian, who really swung, who was genuine. I filed that praise away, as one does, hoping that I would hear Charlie in the flesh — which happened at the Redwood Coast Music Festival.
I have evidence, which I treasured when it was happening, treasured through watching and re-watching, and treasure more now — video recordings from May 11 and 12, 2019. I am reproducing the links in full, not my usual practice, in hopes that readers will stop what they are doing and dig in.
First, a groovy set with boogie, blues, and a lovely HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN:
A few thoughts. Marc told me of Charlie playing I GOT RHYTHM for twenty-five choruses and making the crowd stand up and cheer. I can believe it: Charlie would have been very happy at the Reno Club in Kansas City c. 1936.
Charlie could thrill a crowd, but virtuosity for its own sake wasn’t what he came for — flaming the fretboard, as a guitarist friend once called it. He lived the music and he lived to share the feelings of songs with us. So his playing was strongly melodic, even through the runs and blue notes, the sharp dynamics, the small dramas-in-swing, the shifting harmonies and variations on variations. A Baty solo was like a short story: it proceeded logically from start to finish; you could analyze its architecture after the fact, although at the time you were swept along by invention and momentum.
He rocked, to put it simply. And he knew it, so part of the pleasure was watching a master’s sweet assurance in his craft.
When I first saw him in person, my five-boroughs skepticism kicked in. This was “Little Charlie“? This broad-shouldered man, like me, might wear a suit from the Portly section (a good deal of real estate in front, around the belt buckle) which he carried without embarrassment: Here I am, and I don’t have a problem with myself. If you do, find another damn place.
His assurance wasn’t arrogance, but it was an easy, perhaps hard-won, self-knowledge, and I saw him as an experienced ship’s captain, later a tribal chieftain, as he told a few stories to us after the set.
When I introduced myself to him, he was gracious in an unfussy way and he made me feel comfortable. Later, when I shared the ecstatic videos with him, he was splendidly grateful and gracious — in private and in public. I saw him in person for perhaps three hours and exchanged a dozen sentences with him in person, and perhaps another handful of emails and Facebook call-and-responses.
So why do I feel so bereft, why is there a large space in the universe where Little Charlie Baty was, and now is not?
To me, both in his playing and in the way he carried himself — powerful yet sometimes understated — he radiated an authenticity, a disdain for posing, that will remain admirable to me. One way to walk through the world; one way to make the air full of melody.
Goodbye, Charlie. Swing out. And thanks for your brief, blazing visit to my world.
Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL is a splendid little band, greeted enthusiastically in person and in cyberspace, which will become evident in sixty-four bars. (The lovely weird artwork below is the cover of their debut CD, by the way.)
Here’s Part One, where you can savor LITTLE GIRL; LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER; HELLO, FISHIES; BATS ON A BRIDGE; BIG AL; PIPELINER’S BLUES; WINDY CITY SWING; HELLO, LOLA.
And the second portion, beginning with LONG-DISTANCE MAN, which has a beautiful story behind it even before the deeply lyrical music begins — for me a highlight of the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival:
Dan Walton’s exuberant ROLL ‘EM, PETE:
Jamey Cummins’ THE SHEIK OF airbnb:
The poignant BLUE LESTER:
And a rollicking THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU:
Truly a band to know and to follow. On a related note — in a major key — the 30th Anniversary Redwood Coast Music Festivalwill take place in Eureka, California, from May 7-10, 2020. I’ll be there, and Hal and many of my hero-friends also.
This is part of the world that Hal Smith’s Swing Central comes from — but the world of Swing Central is living and thriving now.
Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives
This little group is packed with pleasures. It’s Hal Smith’s evocation of a world where Pee Wee Russell and Lester Young could hang out at Jimmy Ryan’s, where Teddy Wilson, Charlie Christian, Eddie Condon, Pops Foster, and Dave Tough could have breakfast after the gig, perhaps chicken and waffles uptown. And the music they created as naturally as breathing was lyrical hot swing that didn’t have the time or patience for labels.
This version of Hal’s group has him on drums and moral leadership, Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and some original compositions, Dan Walton, piano and vocal, Steve Pikal, string bass; Jamey Cummns, guitar. This is the first part of a long leisurely showcase at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California.
and a Bing Crosby hit that justifiably entered the jazz repertoire:
Jonathan Doyle’s wonderful HELLO, FISHIES:
something for people who have been to Austin, Texas, or for those who need to take a trip there, BATS ON A BRIDGE:
A dedication to one Mister Capone, who liked jazz when he wasn’t working:
Dan Walton sings and plays Moon Mullican’s PIPELINER’S BLUES, while everyone joins in on this jump blues:
for the Chicagoans and the rest of us as well, WINDY CITY SWING:
and we’ll close the first half of this uplifting set with HELLO, LOLA — a reminder of Red McKenzie and his friends:
Hal’s beautiful little group also made a CD where they strut their stuff quite happily: I wrote about it here.
And they will be appearing — with Kris Tokarski and Ryan Gould in for Walton and Pikal — at the Austin Lindy Exchange, November 21-24 — which, like love, is just around the corner.
Not incidentally, the Redwood Coast Music Festival is happening again, thank goodness and thanks to Mark Jansen and Valerie Jansen, from May 7-10, 2020. More information here as well. Some numbers: it’s their 30th anniversary; it runs for 4 days; there are 30 bands; more than 100 sets of music. Do the math, as we say, and come on.
In he name of joy, I present the second half of Dave Stuckey and Hal Smith’s Western Swing party at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival.
But for the people who didn’t get yesterday’s plateful, here it is. (Not just music, but two lovely essays on Western Swing, one each by Hal and Dave.)
The wondrous music-makers are Dave Stuckey, guitar, vocal; Elana James, fiddle, vocal; Hal Smith, drums; James Mason, fiddle; Dan Walton, piano, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Rusty Blake, steel guitar; Chris Wilkinson, guitar; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Wally Hersom, string bass. And this glorious outpouring took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 10, 2019. (I will point out that next year’s RCMF is May 7-10, 2020, and we are going to be there.)
Here’s the swinging REMINGTON RIDE:
Asking the musical question, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THE MILL? — a song I could hear Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys doing (with a cameo appearance by the Roving Photographer):
Cindy Walker’s I HEAR YOU TALKIN’ with echoes of Fifty-Second Street:
The pretty MAIDEN’S PRAYER:
TIME CHANGES EVERYTHING, as we know:
Dan Walton’s PIPELINER’S BLUES, from the Moon Mullican book:
Cindy Walker’s DUSTY SKIES:
SAN ANTONIO ROSE, the “Western Swing national anthem”:
How can you hear more of this . . . . ? Come to the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 7-10, 2o2o.
It’s taken me many years to truly appreciate the breadth and soulfulness of Western Swing but I get it now, so I was thrilled to attend (and record) this leisurely long presentation by a genuinely all-star group, co-led by Dave Stuckey, guitar, vocal; and Hal Smith, drums, at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival.
Here’s the personnel — the hot / sweet rascals all in a row: Dave Stuckey, guitar, vocal; Elana James, fiddle, vocal; Hal Smith, drums; James Mason, fiddle; Dan Walton, piano, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Rusty Blake, steel guitar; Chris Wilkinson, guitar; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Wally Hersom, string bass.
Because I don’t think of myself as an authority on this music, I asked Dave and Hal for their comments, which are as different as they are. Dave, first:
While most people think of Western Swing as a melting pot…and I wouldn’t disagree necessarily (music did come across the border…Wills had Spanish Fandango, the Tune Wranglers had el Rancho Grande, etc), I think that was a just a subset of what they played. The base line was jazz, though. When you look at WS’s (as it was called by 1947 — previously it was regarded as Hot String Band) repertoire, it’s all jazz. Very few originals.
I always think of it as a bunch of cats in Texas who were wild about jazz and wanted to play it – so they did with the instruments they had (steel guitar, fiddles). Judging from what I’ve heard from the limited amount of old-timers I’ve been lucky enough to meet is that jazz was just about ALL they listened to.
I met Benny Garcia, the excellent guitarist for Wills, Tex Williams, Hank Penny and at one point, Goodman (!). He grew up in Oklahoma City and when we chatted, all he wanted to talk about was Charlie Christian, his biggest influence.
I don’t know how often the jazz guys even knew of Western Swing but I do know the story of Jimmie Bryant, the singular country jazz guitarist who, it was said, would often leave his weekly gig at Hometown Jamboree in El Monte (south of L.A.) and shoot up to Hollywood and sit in with Stuff Smith at Billy Berg’s on Vine Street.
Jimmie Rodgers is a wellspring, just like Pops. I regard those two as the only occupants on Music Mount Olympus. I also think to call Jimmie The Father of Country Music is to way undersell him. He was all of it – jazz, country, blues, Hawaiian. I don’t know if you’ve read Finding Jimmie Rodgers by Barry Mazor, but I think you’d really enjoy it. It ties a lot of it together with fact and supposition.
Milton Brown? Well, it’s hard to imagine what the whole timeline would be like had he not died so young. He was right there…once he and Bob broke up after that first, seminal record, they both went in fairly disparate, but equally great directions.
I was aware of Western Swing music in the ’60s, after finding out that hot jazz cornetists Benny Strickler and Danny Alguire had worked with Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys. But it was difficult to find comprehensive reissues of Wills’ music until the ’70s. Once I heard those recordings, with more great hornmen like Tubby Lewis, reedmen Wayne Johnson and Woody Wood, the Jess Stacy-like piano of Al Stricklin, the hot jazz of fiddlers Jesse Ashlock and Joe Holly and steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe, the swinging drums of Smokey Dacus, Bob Fitzgerald and Monte Mountjoy and the friendly vocal styles of Tommy Duncan and Wills himself…I was hooked!
Fast-forward to the early 2000s in Southern California, when I made the acquaintance of Dave “Pappy” Stuckey. We quickly found out that we shared a lot of musical interests, from the Firehouse Five Plus Two to Eddie Condon to…Western Swing! With the help of some talented Southern California musicians, we organized the “Hi-Lo Playboys” to perform at a variety of events. However, conflicting schedules, disagreements regarding the band’s approach and a general lack of work doomed this group within a short time.
Fast-forward again to the 2017 Redwood Coast Music Festival…As Dave and I rode together in a van to the Eureka airport, the subject of Western Swing came up. We agreed that a hot Western group would be a great addition to the musical presentations at Redwood Coast. When we contacted Festival Director Mark Jansen, he immediately agreed. After receiving the green light for a special set at the 2018 festival, “Pappy” Stuckey and “Junior” Smith began to contact musicians who would be able to play the music the right way and simultaneously put together set lists to reflect the best music from the Texas Playboys repertoire. “Pappy and Junior’s Barn Burner” was a smash hit at the 2018 Redwood Coast Music Festival. Happily, Mark Jansen agreed to a reprise in 2019 and friend Michael videotaped the band for posterity.
And now . . . the first half of this glorious effervescent evening of music.
TAKE ME BACK TO TULSA:
A HOME IN SAN ANTONE:
WHOA BABE! — which some of us will also know from a Lionel Hampton Victor:
I’M FEELING BAD:
SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE:
DRIVIN’ NAILS IN MY COFFIN:
I will close by saying that my ears were opened wider by this erudite hilarious feeling presentation, that a second half is waiting in the wings, that all of this wouldn’t happen were it not for the generosities of Mark and Valerie Jansen, AND that the next Redwood Coast Music Festival is May 7-10, 2020, and you will see us there.
From this distance, it feels as if Charlie Christian (July 29, 1916 – March 2, 1942) was an extra-terrestrial phenomenon, some entity that touched down so briefly on this planet, played a great deal of music — some of it, thank the Goddess, recorded — and then said he had to visit another neighborhood and we should study what he had given us. Charlie feels more like a beam of light reflected through a spinning prism than an actual mortal, although we have stories of him at the back of the band bus, singing Lester Young solos. And I suspect that what the doctors at the sanitarium on Staten Island, New York, wrote down as “tuberculosis” on his chart was an inter-galactic summons to another place that needed his particular blaze of joyous enlightenment.
He wasn’t the first to play jazz on the electric guitar (check out George Barnes, Eddie Durham, Floyd Smith, and others) but what he did was completely fresh then and remains so: the looping lines, the rhythmic attack both fierce and subtle, the harmonic suggestions, the incisive swing. We celebrate him!
Charlie Christian as a member of Benny Goodman’s Orchestra, Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, September 1939. Thanks to Nick Rossi for the photograph.
This most recent celebration took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 11, 2019, and the brilliant players are Little Charlie Baty (right) and Jamey Cummins, guitars; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Sam Rocha, string bass; Dan Walton, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Dawn Lambeth, vocal. Hereare the first four performances: FLYING HOME, ROSE ROOM, BENNY’S BUGLE, and STAR DUST.
And the second half, beginning with SEVEN COME ELEVEN:
Dawn Lambeth stops by to sing I’M CONFESSIN’:
and the splendid 1931 I SURRENDER, DEAR:
Something Middle Eastern that isn’t hummus? Perhaps THE SHEIK OF ARABY:
And the closing swing delight, WHOLLY CATS, which I always think should have an exclamation point at its close:
Incidentally, it’s easy to be distracted by the gleaming sounds of the “two guitar heroes,” Little Charlie and Jamey, but I would direct or re-direct your attention to that glorious rhythm section of Dan Walton, Sam Rocha, and Jeff Hamilton; the sweet song of Dawn Lambeth; the wonderful improvisations of Jacob Zimmerman and Marc Caparone, whose idea this set was.
Make plans to visit the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 7-10, 2020 — thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen and their wonderful musical friends.
And for more about Charlie, from a different angle, here is Mel Powell’s recollections of the young man. And a memory of Benny Goodman as well.
Charlie Christian didn’t have many birthdays on this planet, but yesterday would have been another one. We celebrate him and his music, and with good reason.
Charlie Christian as a member of Benny Goodman’s Orchestra, Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, September 1939. Thanks to Nick Rossi for the photograph.
This celebration took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 11, 2019, and the brilliant players are Little Charlie Baty (right) and Jamey Cummins, guitars; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Sam Rocha, string bass; Dan Walton, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Dawn Lambeth, vocal. Here are the first four performances.
More to come in Part Two. And more to come from the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 2020 — thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen and their wonderful musical friends.
And for more about Charlie, from a different angle, here is Mel Powell’s recollections of the young man. And a memory of Benny Goodman as well.
My own periodic table of the essential chemical elements has a space for OP, or optimism, the substance that has carried me and others through darkness — the organism needs it in regular doses. (Under my breath, I say, “Especially these days.”)
Next to it, of course, is the element LA, for Louis Armstrong, who conveyed more optimism than any other human being.
I grew up deeply in love with the music of Louis’ last quarter-century, with the most played jazz record in my tiny childhood collection the Decca sides with Gordon Jenkins; the second in line, TOWN HALL CONCERT PLUS, which I played until its grooves were a soft gray. (My original copy disappeared in a period of marital acrimony, but I found another one for solace.)
Here is William P. Gottlieb’s famous photograph of that band, that place, and even hints of that fortunate 1947 audience:
But we are in 2019, where I can magically share a passionate new performance of a song very important to Louis — coming from the 1936 film in which he was billed alongside Bing Crosby, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — created by Marc Caparone, cornet; Clint Baker, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Dan Walton, keyboard (which he makes sound like a piano); Sam Rocha, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums. Uncredited dancers and irrelevant conversation free of charge.
All this goodness took place at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival (thanks to Mark and Val Jansen) in Eureka, California, a musical weekend that made me extremely happy and fulfilled. More about those joys as I share videos of this and other bands.
On the original performance at Town Hall in 1947, Louis was accompanied by “little Bobby Hackett” on cornet, playing magnificently. Marc hints at both Louis and Bobby while sounding like himself. When the group makes their CD, we will bring back George Avakian to do his magical multi-tracking, so that Marc can play cornet filigree to his own vocal.
By the way, if you are one of those lopsided souls who believe that Louis had little to give the world after 1929, I encourage you to read this book, slowly and attentively:
And there are two pieces of good news. One is that there is more from this Louis tribute; the second is that Ricky Riccardi has completed the second volume of what may become a Louis-trilogy, HEART FULL OF RHYTHM, covering the period 1929-1947.
Blessings on all the musicians, Mark and Val Jansen, Ricky, and all the optimists we have the good fortune to encounter.
Probably no one is asking forlornly, “Are the Big Bands going to come back?” because we once thought we knew the gloomy answer. But hearing this disc, I feel bursts of swinging optimism cascading around me. Brooks Prumo Orchestra has done the best magic: evoking past glories without imitating them. If you heard this disc from another room, you might think, happily, that a new cache of Bill Savory’s discs has descended from Heaven (something that will, in fact, be true soon) — but these musicians are alive and ready to swing out on their own terms, in their own remarkable voices.
And speaking of voices, this is my first real introduction to Alice Spencer, who has one of the greatest voices I have heard in this century — supple, witty, multi-colored — and she knows what to do with it.
Artwork by Laura Glaess.
The songs: BOLERO AT THE SAVOY / DICKIE’S DREAM / BENNY’S BUGLE / NOTHING TO DO BUT HANG WITH YOU / LOSERS WEEPERS / DINAH / JUMPIN’ WITH SYMPHONY SID / SWING, BROTHER, SWING / SIMPLE SWEET EMBRACE / SIX CATS AND A PRINCE / PASS THE BOUNCE / ESQUIRE BOUNCE / JUMP JACK JUMP / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / THE LAST JUMP (A JUMP TO END ALL JUMPS – SILVER SHADOWS) / STARDUST.
And, lest you feel overwhelmed by words, you can go here and hear the CD.
Now, “a mission statement” from Brooks:
“The Brooks Prumo Orchestra was created for swing dancing.”
For me, big band music from the Swing Era is my favorite music for swing dancing. I wanted to put out an album only of tunes that were either original compositions, original arrangements, or remakes of tracks where the original version did not have a good recording. Please take a look at the inside liner notes for info about each track. Hopefully this release is a positive contribution to the world of swing music and swing dancing! In addition to the tracks themselves, I also wanted to hit a wide range of tempos for dancing. This album has songs at approximately the following tempos: 235, 230, 225, 210, 190, 180, 175, 160, 155, 145, 140, 135, and 125 beats per minute. Every single song on this recording holds a special place in my heart. I truly hope you enjoy it and thank you for your support!
The Musicians: Alice Spencer, vocal; Hal Smith, drums; Ryan Gould, string bass; Dan Walton, piano; Brooks Prumo, guitar; Marcus Graf, Adrian Ruiz, trumpet; David Jellema, cornet, clarinet; Mark Gonzales, trombone; Greg Wilson; alto sax; Dan Torosian, alto sax, baritone sax; Jonathan Doyle, tenor sax, clarinet; Lauryn Gould, tenor sax, soprano sax.
About the music: some of the names above will be familiar to you if you’ve heard The Thrift Set Orchestra, the Sahara Swingtet, or Jonathan Doyle’s groups. And certain names in that personnel have well-deserved star status. Worth repeating: musicians have praised Alice Spencer to me, but she comes through this CD like a gorgeous swing breeze, with a big wink, as if Joan Blondell had taken swing lessons and graduated at the head of her class.
The rhythm section of the BPO is just peerless. And let us say “Hal Smith!” all together, reverently.
The sections hit together wonderfully, and the solos — often by Jellema, Doyle, Gonzales, Walton, Ruiz — although everyone gets a taste — are idiomatic yet free. I know there are charts on this session, but the band and Alice swing out from their hearts.
The only side-effects from this music might be silly grinning and bouncing around one’s domicile, and these side-effects will persist after the disc is no longer spinning. Don’t tell your doctor: tell everyone!
The repertoire draws on Basie, Goodman, Krupa, Shaw, with a few original arrangements and original tunes thrown into the mix — performances that evoke Commodore and Keynote sessions, Lester Young, Tommy Dorsey, Billie Holiday, Andy Kirk. But the BPO is not a machine devoted to “playing old records live”: they sound wonderfully like a 1940-44 Basie small group with a few extra friends along for the joyride.
PASS THE BOUNCE contains highly seductive music. Even though my ballroom dance instructor and my neurologist suggested — a decade apart — that I was not going to impress anyone on the dance floor, this CD makes me feel as if I can dance. Even better, that I should be. It’s that lovely and encouraging.
Make your holiday season rock . . . or any season. This CD is seriously joyous. Grab a few copies here — or if you prefer to download and stream (having it your way) that door is wide open as well. And the BPOrchestra’s Facebook pageis here.
It is more reassuring than I can say that such music is getting played and recorded: maybe the end of civilization as we know it can be postponed for a bit?
I take a great deal of pleasure in being associated with this fine rewarding new band, one that mixes Chicago jazz, Kansas City small groups, heat and lyricism. It’s the beloved creation of drummer Hal Smith, and he’s assembled a fine crew to make memorable sounds: Steve PIkal, string bass; Dan Walton, piano / vocals; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet. I’ve written about them here — including comments on their debut CD, WINDY CITY SWING, whose cover is pictured above.
I could not make it to the 2017 BixFest held in Davenport, Iowa, just a week ago, but I am delighted to report to you that all the music made by Swing Central was captured by jazzmanjoe100, who is known to his banker as Edward. But we’ll call him Joe in this post. I’m grateful to him, and you will be too, for his diligence. Joe and I use different cameras and have different ways of presenting music to the eager audience on YouTube, compiling one-hour DVDs which might encompass the first set of one band and then a portion of another band’s performance. I have tried to elaborate on what’s on his videos, and the hidden pleasure is that they will lead you to other videos of his featuring the Fat Babies and Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band. But here is ALL of Swing Central, which is a great gift to us.
From Thursday, August 3, 2017, after the Bix Youth Orchestra (at 32:00) CHANGES MADE:
Continuing that set: ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / DON’T LEAVE ME, DADDY / CHINA BOY / SWEET IS THE NIGHT / WHOLLY CATS / I WANT A LITTLE GIRL / BEAT ME, DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR (vocal Dan Walton) / LESTER LEAPS IN:
Friday, August 4, starting at 15:30, after the end of a Fat Babies set and some welcomes, HELLO, LOLA!, HI, FISHIES, BATS ON A BRIDGE, BLUE LESTER, ROLL ‘EM PETE, REPEATER PENCIL, PEE WEE’S BLUES, IT’S BEEN SO LONG, FROM MONDAY ON:
Later on Friday: JELLY ROLL / FOR NO REASON AT ALL IN C / YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME / LONG DISTANCE MAN / LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER / PIG FOOT PETE (voc Dan Walton) / SHIVERS / I SURRENDER, DEAR / HAL, YEAH!:
From Saturday, August 5, at 49:50 (following a set by Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band), Hal and Swing Central play MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (with conversation) / BIG AL:
Continuing that set: Jon Doyle’s WINDY CITY SWING / Frank Melrose’s BLUESIANA / Jamey Cummins’ THE SHEIK OF AIR B N B / LOUISE / THREE LITTLE WORDS / I MUST HAVE THAT MAN / ROSE OF THE RIO GRANDE :
And from that evening, after nine minutes of Josh Duffee’s Greystone Monarchs, Swing Central comes on [and do they ever!] with THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU / SUNDAY / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW / PIPE LINER’S BLUES (vocal Dan Walton) / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / I NEVER KNEW / POOR BUTTERFLY / LITTLE GIRL:
and from a different point of view, thanks to TunefulTravel, POOR BUTTERFLY:
and I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA:
What a band! I look forward to finding SWING CENTRAL at other festivals, and I know that many of you will agree with me.
Even though it’s been in existence only a short time, SWING CENTRAL, the beloved brain-and-heart child of drummer and inspiration man Hal Smith, is one of my favorite bands. Here is what I wrote about it on the occasion of its debut CD, whose nifty cover is pictured below.
I was not able to make it to hear / see / video SWING CENTRAL at the BixFest, but fortunately “jazzmanjoe” caught a set, with nice sound.
The members of this compact swinging ensemble are Jonathan Doyle, clarinet; Dan Walton, piano / vocals; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Hal Smith, drums / leader. In this set, they play WAY DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS; DON’T LEAVE ME, DADDY; CHINA BOY; SWEET IS THE NIGHT; WHOLLY CATS; I WANT A LITTLE GIRL; BEAT ME, DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR; LESTER LEAPS IN.
A few words about the band and its delightful repertoire, or maybe more than a few. From the top, borrowing Eddie Durham’s words about Ed Hall, “Hal Smith doesn’t know how to not swing,” which means to me that his beat is irrresistible. If you put on a CD (or “record”) in another room that started with eight bars of Hal’s hi-hat, I would a) know who it was before the passage was over; b) be smiling; c) put down whatever I was doing in the other room to come closer to the speaker to soak in the swing. Hal also has a capacious imagination: he can most effectively put together a band devoted to Kid Ory, or the Watters-Scobey-Murphy world, but he really likes supercharged small groups that float and fly, and he’s got a long list of such groups with many wonderful recordings. As he says on the video, he was moved to create SWING CENTRAL as a band that could play “Chicago style,” but was earnestly connected to the delicate heartfelt traceries of clarinetists Lester Young, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Chace, among others: which leads me to the bold statement that (aside from the one evocation of Charlie Christian on this set) NO OTHER BAND SOUNDS LIKE THIS.
Festival promoters, please take note. SWING CENTRAL is the doctor-tested remedy for audiences shrinking because of dulling sameness.
A long pause for calm.
Pianist Dan Walton is a hidden gem. Like the rest of this band, he never plays a formulaic or dull note or phrase. He’s absorbed all the great styles and recordings, but — thank heavens — he isn’t on the planet to play them note-for-note unless requested. His solo work is quiet but it rings in the mind; his ensemble playing is just the thing, and his boogie-woogie sounds real. I’d like to hear a Dan Walton solo or duo CD, and hope that this idea can be realized soon.
Jamey Cummins. In a landscape of guitarists who sound fraternally similar, young Mister J.C. stands out as a gifted inventor of long spinning lines, someone whose rhythm playing rocks. He plays himself, and that’s a wonderful thing.
I got to meet the ebullient Steve Pikal on my recent Nashville trip, and he’s a wonderful creation: you can’t tell where he stops and where the music begins, or, put it this way, his unwavering good humor, expressed in a nearly perpetual smile, comes right through his string bass. He loves Walter Page and Pops Foster and Milt Hinton and all the propulsive people in the great tradition, and you hear his love.
Jon Doyle is a great poet who might never have written a sonnet, but each chorus is a new effusion, whether tender or searing-hot. He’s captured the whimsical souls of the musicians he admires, but what comes out of the end of that stick of grenadilla wood is entirely Doyle. He’s not copying Lester, Pee Wee, or Frank; he is showing himself as someone who understands their beauties and has taken from them new ways to be himself.
You’ll notice that the tunes in this set (and when you buy the CD, the same applies) are often familiar — think of WAY DOWN YONDER and CHINA BOY (the latter more often mentioned than played) are in some hands “Dixieland classics,” but here they are springboards for elegant new improvisations. But something remarkable: other bands can play Hot, and often at a higher volume, but SWING CENTRAL has its own special tenderness: not only Jon playing a ballad, but the subtle textures of the rhythm section, of Hal’s brushwork — of a band that knows that power isn’t volume, that the way to make an audience feel is not necessarily to whack it over the head in performance after performance. A quintet of swing poets, inspired by Milt Gabler and other lights in the darkness. May they prosper.
We’re so lucky that Hal had this idea, and that he and his friends made it happen.
Hal Smith is someone whose music I’ve admired long before I was able to meet him and hear the magic he works from a front-row seat. Dogs bark; cats meow; Hal swings, and I’ve never known him to fail. Better than CPR.
Put it another way: I’ve had a driver’s license for decades, and am thus less comfortable in the passenger seat. When I hear a performance with Hal at the drums, I can relax — the same way I do when Jo or Sidney or Wettling or Tough is in control: I know everything’s going to be all right.
A new CD with Hal is always a pleasure; the debut recording of a new Hal Smith band is an event, one to be celebrated. SWING CENTRAL lives up to its title, and there’s more at work here than a) a quintet playing a swing repertoire and b) that the musicians all live in the Central time zone.
Those musicians — exuberant and focused at the same time are, besides Hal — Jonathan Doyle on clarinet; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass, and appearing on one track, Joshua Hoag, also on bass.
What makes this clarinet-plus rhythm group different and thus a treasure is vividly apparent from the first notes of the first track. For one thing, SWING CENTRAL is aware that there is music not played by Benny Goodman. Heresy to some, I know, and I treasure my Goodman records as much as anyone, but this band and this disc go another way. And that way is the endearingly individualistic way mapped out by Lester Young, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Chace, and Charlie Christian. SWING CENTRAL is a hot band, but not an exhibitionistic one: on this CD or in performance, you won’t hear a ten-minute version of SEVEN COME ELEVEN that’s capped with a drum solo. Hearing the disc again, I thought, “This band is playing for the music, not for the audience,” which is a beautiful and rare thing. And the musicians know the records, but have absorbed them into their cell memory, so that they can play themselves, which is the only way to honor the innovators. “Feelin’ the spirit,” as they used to say.
Now that you’ve gotten over the pleasant shock of the remarkable cover art by JP Ardee Navarro, hear and see the band in performance (Austin’s Central Market, 2016) for yourself:
and Jon Doyle’s charming sweet original, HELLO, FISHIES:
Hal asked me if I would write something for this CD, and I was honored. Here’s what I came up with: easy to tell the truth, and easy to express happiness in words. (And in case what I’ve written seems to favor Jon Doyle and the leader, I will say only that I’d like to hear a CD led by Dan Walton, Jamey, or Steve.)
A MEETING OF KINDRED SOULS
A true story. Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk were in a taxi, discussing “the beat”. Monk favored surprising shifts but Dizzy disagreed. “What would you do if your heart beat irregular? The steady beat is the principle of life.” My cardiologist would agree: healthy, happy organisms swing from the inside out. Hal Smith’s Swing Central is not only a wondrous cohesive group, inspired by the music of Pee Wee Russell, Lester Young, Frank Chace, and friends, but it affirms joyous principles. From Austin, Texas, comes healing jazz.
Leader Hal tells how this band came to be:
I’ve known Jon Doyle since 2009. The first time I heard him warming up on clarinet, quoting Pres’ solo from “I Want A Little Girl,” the seed was planted for this band. Steve Pikal and I worked together in the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 2010. Steve’s outgoing personality and propulsive bass playing is always a positive influence. Dan Walton introduced me to the Western Swing scene in Texas. We played together with Jason Roberts’ band and later with Dan’s own Jump Swing Imperials. He understands that “less is more” and it shows. Jamey Cummins has been in Austin for some time, and is finally receiving the attention he deserves. He plays wonderful Freddie Green-like time and inventive, highly rhythmic solos.
We decided not to pursue the familiar Goodman-based clarinet-and-rhythm repertoire but rather to explore the more introverted music of Pee Wee Russell, Lester Young, Frank Chace. Jon Doyle took to the idea like a bat takes to the Congress Ave. Bridge. When we began, the musicians lived in the Central Time zone, so the band name suggested itself. (However, we are not going to add “Pacific” when a couple of our musicians have relocated to the West Coast!)
This was the easiest recording session I have ever done, and several other band members agreed. I think you’ll hear what a good time we had.
This quietly thrilling band reminds me not only of the three inspiring clarinet playing individualists, but of the possibilities of music that gently breaks down the barriers some listeners and journalists build, cubicles labeled “schools” and “styles.” Swing Central takes familiar songs and make them fresh and dewy; Jon’s compositions and reinventions are witty beyond their titles. And these players – happy rovers in the land of Medium Tempo, great ensemble players as well as inspiring soloists — go for themselves rather than copying.
About the repertoire. Listeners will hear the chord structures of SUGAR, MY GAL SAL, I FOUND A NEW BABY, and LADY BE GOOD reinvigorated. An answer key is available at the end of your workbook, but no peeking until you’ve handed in your finished pages.
BIG AL evokes Mr. Capone, who would have tipped Swing Central generously to keep playing his favorite song. Hal explains BATS ON A BRIDGE as “a real Austin phenomenon, and five of the six musicians here have deep roots in Texas’ weirdest city. http://www.batcon.org/index.php/our-work/regions/usa-canada/protect-mega-populations/cab-intro. HI, FISHIES comes from a sweet cross-species story. Ask Jon when you meet him on a gig. REPEATER PENCIL is for Lester, and for this band: artists who honor the innovators by being innovative themselves.
LONG-DISTANCE MAN owes its title to a Pres-and-Chace story recalled by Larry Kart: “[Chace] also told a very ‘Frank’ story about his encounter with Lester Young in 1957 in Pres’s hotel room in (I think) Indianapolis, where Frank was playing at a club and Pres was in town with a non-JATP package tour. The drummer in the band Frank was part of, Buddy Smith, suggested that they pay Pres a visit after the gig, and when they got there, Frank (‘I’m shy,’ he said), hung back while the other guys gathered around Pres. Having noticed this bit of behavior, Pres beckoned Frank to come closer, addressing him softly as ‘long-distance man.’ Probably a meeting of kindred souls.”
SHEIK OF AIRBNB is named thus because Jamey stayed in an AirBnB directly below the studio where the session was recorded. I MUST HAVE THAT MAN is from the band’s live gig at Central Market in Austin on Aug. 28, 2016. Josh Hoag (now with Asleep at the Wheel) filled in for Steve. The band decided that they must share this track with us: a lovely gift. When you are enjoying SUNDAY, don’t be surprised when the track fades out. Do not adjust your set. Hal explains, “Alex Hall’s reliable recording equipment may have been affected by a sun spot, or maybe one of Doyle’s blue notes. But we liked the overall feel so much — particularly Jon’s playing — that we decided to keep as much as possible and fade before the sudden ending.”
Sir John Davies, a Renaissance poet, wrote ORCHESTRA, his conception of a cosmos vibrating in symphonic harmony. If we are very fortunate, the world might vibrate as does Hal Smith’s Swing Central – tender, relaxed, urgent. We have a long way to go, but it’s a noble aspiration.
Here is the link to hear samples, purchase an actual disc, or a download. Hal and SWING CENTRAL will be appearing at the Bix Festival on the first weekend of August in Davenport, Iowa. . . so you can have the mutual pleasure of buying CDs from the band there, also. And here is the place to find out about all things Smith — the swinging ones, of course.
Nothing beats music, which is its own kind of prayer, for both instant and lasting spiritual relief. No extra calories, liver damage, or worries about The Law. One of the newest groups of roving spiritual practitioners is the Brooks Prumo Orchestra led by young Mister Prumo of Austin, Texas, dancer, rhythm guitarist, and man-with-more-than-one-plan. And we can now see and hear the results of his energetic devotion: a swing band that is serious about the music but has a large light heart. (Thanks to Kevin Hill for the fine videos.)
Here are the band members, many of them familiar as players in the Thrift Set Orchestra, the Sahara Swingtet, Swing Central, and groups led by Jonathan Doyle and Hal Smith. (Speaking about Hal, this gig was, I believe, his second or third after being sidelined for a time because of an auto accident. WELCOME BACK! WE MISSED YOU! The sound of Hal’s drumming — his percussive insight as well as the silvery float of his hi-hat — always makes me feel good, and I know I am not alone.)
Back to the BPO: Cale Montgomery, Marcus Graf, David Jellema, trumpet; Mark Gonzales, Leo Gauna, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, Lyon Graulty, tenor saxophone / clarinet; Zack Varner, alto saxophone / clarinet; Greg Wilson, alto / baritone saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Ryan Gould, string bass; Hal Smith, drums; Brooks Prumo, guitar; Albanie Falletta, vocal. All these very pleasing videos are on YouTube (where else?) and you can subscribe to the Orchestra’s channel . I did.
ESQUIRE BOUNCE, arranged by Jonathan Doyle:
BENNY’S BUGLE, a mixture of Lee and Lester Young 1941-2, SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE, Charlie Christian, Cootie Williams, and Benny Goodman. (arrangement by David M. Jellema, his first for this band):
BOLERO AT THE SAVOY (echoes of Krupa and Basie), vocal by Albanie Falletta:
AVENUE C (by Buck Clayton for the 1942-3 Basie band):
PASS THE BOUNCE (arranged by Lauryn Gould), vocal by Albanie Falletta:
JON’S DREAM a/k/a DICKIE’S DREAM, arranged, properly, by Jonathan Doyle:
LAST JUMP, arranged by Zach Varner:
I know that it won’t be the LAST JUMP for this swinging band for some time: wishing them many gigs, appreciative audiences, public notice, and pleasures — like the ones they give us.
Who’s that young man in the grip of Music? Jonathan Doyle, for certain.
I first encountered Jonathan Doyle (tenor saxophone, clarinet, compositions, arrangements) through my friend, master percussionist Hal Smith — more about that later — which is a stellar recommendation. I then encountered Jon as the lead horn in a San Diego Jazz Fest session with Ray Skjelbred (another gold star) and most recently with the Fat Babies at the Evergreen Jazz Festival. Somewhere in this delightful process of admiration, I heard and loved Jonathan’s CD, THE FED HOP, and we actually had a short friendly conversation at Evergreen. His official biography can be found here.
Jonathan is not one of those highly-schooled fellows who “understands” swing from a safe distance. Watch him on video for even eight bars, and you see that he is utterly immersed in it, his horn and his body in the grip of the most beautiful energies. He also surrounds himself with like-minded souls who obviously live for this kind of lyrical groovy experience. AND his compositions are quite wonderful: often subversively built on almost-familiar chord changes with titles that almost give the joke away. For instance, I think I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK is a slow rock over the harmonies of ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE, the results being satisfying and a well-executed in-joke. This band harks back to the Keynote sessions, to Basie small groups (with Basie himself smiling at the sounds but not at the keyboard), Benny Carter lines, and more . . . but they’re not in town to copy, but to evoke. And they do it splendidly.
The swing heroes for this particular session, captured slightly more than a year ago at the Sahara Lounge in Austin, Texas, are Jonathan, tenor sax; David Jellema, cornet; Mark Gonzales, trombone; Brooks Prumo, rhythm guitar; Joshua Hoag, string bass; Jason Baczynski, drums. The very expert videos are by Gary Feist of yellowdogvideo.com.
From left: Mark Gonzales, David Jellema, Joshua Hoag, Jonathan Doyle
Al Sears’ hit, CASTLE ROCK (a title that stands for something good, magnified):
Jon’s original, I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK:
Another original, STRANGE MACHINATIONS:
Some very good omens. First, a close cousin of the band shown above has recorded a new CD, TOO HOT FOR SOCKS, which I will be writing about — enthusiastically, having heard some of it through digital magic. You can hear it and Jon’s other recordings at his websiteand here. He’s also on Facebook here. And — just to pile tantalizing bits of data one upon another –hereis his YouTube channel, full of delights. (So the young man may play like it’s 1946 but he certainly knows how to navigate this century with grace.)
Hal Smith (mentioned admiringly above) has a new band, SWING CENTRAL, which features Jon as the sole horn, exploring the best floating small-band swing with a focus on Lester Young, Charlie Christian, and Pee Wee Russell. The other participants have been pianist Dan Walton, guitarist Jamey Cummins, and either Joshua Hoag or Steve Pikal on string bass. They’ve played at the Capital City Jazz Fest in Madison, Wisconsin in April, and they just had a gig at Central Market in Austin, Texas. Rumor has it that a few festival appearances are being discussed, as is a CD recording session. And — no rumor — I will have some videos from Austin to share with you in the near future. A band to look out for!
Keep grooving with Jonathan Doyle and friends, wherever you find them.