Tag Archives: David Lukacs

SASSENHEIM SWING: THE UNACCOUNTED FOUR (October 26, 2014)

My European geography is scant, so I had to look it up myself.  Wikipedia states, “Sassenheim . . . is a town and former municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. . . . The name Sassenheim consists of two parts; the first (Sassen) means Saxons, and the second portion (heim) is Old Frankish for “home”. And here’s a pretty postcard:

Sassenheim Hoofdstraat 197 01

Class dismissed!  Now for some music.

It was a delightful surprise to learn that there was The Classic Jazzclub in Sassenheim, and that they featured the Unaccounted Four (Menno Daams, cornet; David Lukacs, clarinet and tenor; Martien Oster, guitar; Joep Lumeij, string bass) on October 26, 2014.  Even better: the CJC has created high-quality videos and they are being shared on YouTube: here is the treat of the day / week / month / year, Menno’s nifty Art Deco arrangement of ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (where Basie and the Miles Davis nonet are the best of friends) performed in front of a perfectly attentive audience — with one, only one, cough-rimshot at about :47:

The Classic Jazz Concert Club has created fifteen videos, featuring Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi, Martin Seck, Leroy Jones, Robert Veen, and an intriguing band called TWO HONEYMOONS AND A CANDLE — which looks very much like a cousin of the Jazzicots or Les Red Hot Reedwarmers, with Aurelie Tropez and Stephane Gillot (details, anyone, especially of an etymological kind?).  I subscribed to this YouTube channel immediately, and suggest you might want to click here too.

And if you are saying, “Wow!  Who is or are The Unaccounted Four?” then I have good news for you.

May your happiness increase!

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PERFECTLY CRAFTED: “PLAYGROUND” by the UNACCOUNTED FOUR

I am delighted to share with you the debut CD of an inspired quartet — the Unaccounted Four — a disc called (appropriately) PLAYGROUND, where the arranged passages are as brilliant as the improvisations, and the two kinds of expression dance beautifully through the disc.

playground_front

Menno plays cornet, wrote the arrangements, and composed three originals; David plays clarinet and tenor saxophone; Martien plays guitar; Joep is on string bass; Harrie ven de Woort plays the pianola on the closing track, a brief EXACTLY LIKE YOU.  The disc was recorded at the PIanola Museum in Amsterdam on four days in May 2014 — recorded superbly by bassist Joep.

The repertoire is a well-stirred offering of “classic” traditional jazz repertoire: STUMBLING, CHARLESTON, LIMEHOUSE BLUES, ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, JUBILEE, EXACTLY LIKE YOU; beautiful pop songs: AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, JEANNINE (I DREAM OF LILAC TIME), ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM, LULLABY OF THE LEAVES; originals: WHAT THE FUGUE, UNGUJA, PLAYGROUND; unusual works by famous composers: Ellington’s REFLECTIONS IN D; Bechet’s LE VIEUX BATEAU; and Ravel’s SLEEPING BEAUTY.  Obviously this is a quartet with an imaginative reach.

A musical sample — the Four performing JUBILEE and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:

Here is Menno’s own note to the CD:

A few years ago, I wanted to have my own jazz quartet to play what is known as “classic jazz.” Besides being nice to listen to, I intended the quartet to be versatile, convenient and different. That is why I bypassed the usual format of horn + piano trio. Our instrumentation of two horns, guitar and bass allows for varied tone colors. The venues where we play don’t need to rent a piano, and we don’t have to help the drummer carry his equipment from the car. As for versatility, David Lukacs, Merien Oster and Joep Lumeij are excellent readers and improvisers. They are also great company to hang out with (convenience again).

Our repertoire dates from the 1920s and 30s. The earliest piece is the adaptation of Ravel’s Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (1912); the latest is Ellington’s Reflections in D (1953), not counting my own tunes. While writing the charts, I chose to frame the familiar (and not-so-familiar) tunes in a new setting, rather than following the original recordings. So, for better or worse, the Unaccounted Four sounds like no other band. I promise you will still recognize the melodies, though!

The recording was made at the Pianola Museum in Amsterdam by Joep Lumeij with only two microphones. Minimal editing and postprocessing was done (or indeed possible).

On the last track, Harrie van de Voort operated a pianola which belted out Exactly Like You while we joined in. It is the only completely improvised performance on this disc. Autumn in New York is at the other end of the spectrum with every note written out.

I hope you will enjoy the Unaccounted Four’s particular brand of chamber jazz.

Menno’s statement that the Unaccounted Four “sounds like no other band” is quite true.  If I heard them on the radio or on a Blindfold Test, I might not immediately recognize the players, but I wouldn’t mistake the band for anyone else. I think my response would be, “My goodness, that’s marvelous.  What or whom IS that?”

Some listeners may wonder, “If it doesn’t sound like any other band, will I like it?”  Fear not.  One could put the Four in the same league as the Braff-Barnes quartet at their most introspective, or the Brookmeyer-Jim Hall TRADITIONALISM REVISITED.  I think of the recordings Frankie Newton made with Mary Lou Williams, or I envision a more contemplative version of the 1938 Kansas City Six or the Kansas City Four.

But here the CD’s title, PLAYGROUND, is particularly apt. Imagine the entire history of melodic, swinging jazz as a large grassy field.  Over there, Bobby Hackett and Shorty Baker are talking about mouthpieces; in another corner, Lester Young, Gil Evans, and Miles Davis are lying on their backs staring at the sky.  Billy Strayhorn and Claude Thornhill are admiring blades of grass; Frank Trumbauer is introducing Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang to Lennie Tristano and Oscar Pettiford; Tony Fruscella and Brew Moore are laughing at something witty Count Basie has said. Someone is humming ROYAL GARDEN BLUES at a medium tempo; another is whistling a solo from the Birth of the Cool sides.

You can continue this game at your leisure (it is good for insomniacs and people on long auto trips) but its whimsical nature explains PLAYGROUND’s particular sweet thoughtful appeal.

It is music to be savored: translucent yet dense tone-paintings, each three or four-minute musical interlude complete in itself, subtle, multi-layered, full of shadings and shifts.  The playing throughout is precise without being mannered, exuberant when needed but never loud — and happily quiet at other times. Impressionism rather than pugilism, although the result is warmly emotional.

Some CDs I immediately embrace, absorb, and apparently digest: I know their depths in a few hearings.  With PLAYGROUND, I’ve listened to it more than a half-dozen times, and each time I hear new aspects; it has the quiet resonance of a book of short stories, which one can keep rereading without ever being bored.

For me, it offers some of the most satisfying listening experiences I have had of late.

The CD can be downloaded or purchased from CDBaby, downloaded from iTunes or Amazon; or one can visit Menno’s own site here, listen to sound samples, and purchase the music from him.

Enjoy the PLAYGROUND.  You have spacious time to explore it.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGING AT THE MUSEUM, 2013

One of my favorite small bands — THE UNACCOUNTED FOUR (!) with Menno Daams, trumpet; David Lukacs, reeds; Martien Oster, guitar; Joep Lumeij, bass — recorded in Amsterdam at the Pianolamuseum.  JUBILEE and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES.

Fine sounds!

May your happiness increase!

“DELICIOUS!”: THE DAVID LUKACS TRIO

Ruby Braff wasn’t terribly interested in food . . . but one of his prime words of praise was DELICIOUS.  And it came into my mind in the first few seconds of these performances by tenor saxophonist David Lukacs,tenor saxophone; Henk Sprenger, guitar; Uli Glaszmann, string bass — recorded on November 13, 2011, in the Theatre De Meerpaal, Dronten, the Netherlands.

Here they make something positively translucent out of Victor Herbert’s INDIAN SUMMER:

And a collection of jazz standards beginning with the witty, twisty Fifties anthem, BERNIE’S TUNE, before moving to a limpid clarinet reading of YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME,and a bit of BESAME MUCHO (the Swing Era is back!), a touch of INDIAN SUMMER, a mournful glance at SEPTEMBER SONG, a sniff at CLARINET MARMALADE, and some FLYING HOME to get us there.

Every note’s beautifully in place, but nothing’s chilly or over-intellectualized.  This swinging trio reminds me greatly of Lucky Thompson / Oscar Pettiford / Skeeter Best or — in this century — the nifty playing of Americans Chris Madsen, Andy Brown, Dan Elfland, Joe Policastro.  I first encountered David (through the magic of YouTube) as a member of the Menno Daams small band, and was instantly won over.  I hope there are more videos of this group, and a CD, and a concert tour . . . world stardom, riches beyond the dreams of avarice . . . they deserve it and more!  (I’m ready!)

SONG STYLISTS: SONYA PINCON, CHRIS PEETERS, LYNN STEIN

One of the many pleasures of JAZZ LIVES is that I find about artists I would ordinarily never have known about.  Here are three singers who might be new to you, whose work will please you.  Each one is a strong individual stylist: no repeater pencils here.  And since some of my metaphorical way of looking at the world finds food-analogies everywhere, if you think of the three singers below as very sharply flavored cuisines, you wouldn’t be far off.

I first encountered SONYA PINÇON on YouTube — singing as part of a group led by her husband, the fine swing pianist Philippe Souplet.  She has a new CD out, IN THE MOOD FOR DUKE, where she’s accompanied by Souplet, Patrick Stanislawski, string bass; Joel Toussaint, drums.  I was at first struck by the focused ease of her voice, evoking any number of fine singers but not imitating anyone.  The repertoire is tried-and-true Ellington / Strayhorn, but it certainly sounds lively rather than overfamiliar.  (I have my usual problems with the lyrics added after the fact, but Sonya doesn’t take it all too seriously, as if she were singing Sondheim or Hart, and husband Philippe strides splendidly and in a delightfully understated way.)  They perform — live — DUKE’S PLACE / DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM / SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR / PRELUDE TO A KISS / CARAVAN / I AIN’T GOT NOTHING BUT THE BLUES / SATIN DOLL / SOPHISTICATED LADY / JUST SQUEEZE ME / IT DON’T MEAN A THING / DAY DREAM.

Here’s a fourteen-minute YouTube preview from the CD: .  Visit http://www.sonyapincon.com for more information.  To order the CD, email Sonya at sonya.jazz@yahoo.fr

If I heard CHRIS PEETERS singing from another room — on the radio or her new CD, that my reaction would be, “Wow!  Who is that?”  And then when I heard her own blues — which has the refrain, “Well, a little strange is good,” I knew the amused and amusing souce of her appeal.  It seems as if her world is charmingly atilt . . . perhaps ten degrees off what the world calls “level.”  About half of her debut CD is devoted to her own compositions, which are surprisingly refreshing — her own versions of hip Europop, the theme songs for films that we might never see, music that we would keep humming to ourselves.  Here’s that BLUES: 

Chris has the benefit of imaginative and often surprising backing on her CD — including Dirk van der Linden; piano, organ, vocal, Vincent Koning, guitar, vocal; Jos Machtel, string bass; Rene Winter, drums, percussion, vocal; David Lukacs, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Joep Peeters, vibraphone; Ellister van der Molen, trumpet; Dennis Kolen, vocal.  She is one of the few singers who can take on the Billie Holiday repertoire without being swallowed up by it — hear her YOU LET ME DOWN as a funeral march with a swinging pulse.  The songs are NOT THE FIRST TIME / BAR FLY / PETITE DANSEUSE DE QUATORZE ANS / MY MAN / CHRIS’ BLUES / SUIT / YOU LET ME DOWN / OH, LOOK AT ME NOW / ONLY ALONE / IT’S LOVE / THE SPINACH SONG (I DIDN’T LIKE IT THE FIRST TIME) / LA VALSE DES LILAS / HALLELUJAH, I LOVE HIM SO.  Find out more here

So far, LYNN STEIN doesn’t have a glossy YouTube video (more about that later).  But she is the only singer of this trio that I’ve had the good fortune to hear live, and her new CD shows off what she can do — and more — in the best way.  Although her new CD, SOFTLY, is brief, she shows off a variety of approaches in six compact performances: from risk-taking to carefully evocative to genre-bending (a version of I’LL BE AROUND that is tough, resilient rather than maudlin).  Her singing can be coy, ironic, sweeping, and rich.  And on the CD she has splendid musical partners: Jon Burr, string bass; John Hart, guitar; Matt Ray, piano; Warren Vache, cornet (on I’LL BE AROUND).  Living in New York, I have the opportunity to hear Lynn and Jon often — and the best part is that Jonathan Schwartz is playing this CD on the radio: always a sign of great things to come.  The songs are SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE / ALONE TOGETHER / ONLY TRUST YOUR HEART / I’LL BE AROUND / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO / MY FOOLISH HEART.  Lynn’s singing sounds simple, but it isn’t . . . close listening reveals a great deal.

About the video!  Here’s Lynn in September 2011 at Jazz at Chautauqua, telling us that everything was fine but it’s even better now — I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT — with Jon on bass, Howard Alden, guitar; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Pete Siers, drums.  I admire the performance; I was there; I held the camera:

Sing out, sisters!

DEEP PASSION II: MENNO DAAMS and DAVID LUKACS

But wait!  There’s more!

If you were as impressed as I was with the four video performances by the Daams-Lukacs Orchestra (I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA, SINGIN’ THE BLUES, SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA, and RING DEM BELLS) that appeared in the previous blogpost, you’ll be delighted to know that there is more music by this group and a smaller Daams group to be heard online. 

True, it’s audio-only, but now that you’ve seen the members of the orchestra for yourself, you can imagine what they look like with your eyes closed.

Visit the MySpace Music page of the Daams-Lukacs Orchestra — http://www.myspace.com/daamslukacsorchestra — and you can hear (and buy) more music from that concert: IMMIGRATION BLUES, MILENBURG JOYS, ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM, THE STAMPEDE. 

Not enough high-intensity gratification for you? 

Menno has his own MySpace Music page —http://www.myspace.com/mennodaams/music/playlists.  There, you can hear five ethereal performances by another Daams aggregation: Menno PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, THESE FOOLISH THINGS,  GET HAPPY, HE AIN’T GOT RHYTHM. 

The other gentlemen of the ensemble aren’t identified in print, but the sound is remarkably evocative — trumpet, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and string bass — subliminally suggestive of the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet, with a different set of shining (and probably more amicable) set of personalities. 

Drop everything (or at least set it down gently) and indulge yourself in some beautifully creative jazz.

DEEP PASSION: MENNO DAAMS – DAVID LUKACS and FRIENDS

It’s been a wonderful day for swinging jazz — tender and hot — because I found these four performances on YouTube. 

The peerless (and under-heralded) trumpeter, arranger, composer Menno Daams has started his own YouTube channel (“menno779”) and its videos include these four delightful performances by the “Daams-Lukacs Orchestra” of jazz classics — homages to Bix, to Louis, and Duke — that are evocations rather than copies even when they seem to be hewing closely to the originals. 

The orchestra — well-rehearsed without being stiff — is composed of Menno on trumpet (and arrangements); David Lukacs on clarinet;  Ronald Jansen Heijtmajer, alto saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone;  Chris Hopkins, piano; Ton van Bergeyk, guitar; Jan Voogd – bass.  Their website is www.myspace.com/daamslukacsorchestra

For the Bixians in the audience (among whom I number myself) here is a delicate reading of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA at just the right tempo (with Chris’s feathery commentary throughout, even suggesting Fats and Teddy, approvingly) before the streamlined closing chorus:

Taking on SINGIN’ THE BLUES is just as difficult, because the 1927 recording is so much a part of our shared history, but this version is just lovely, with its own room to breathe, echoing Berigan as well as Beiderbecke (with lovely work by Ronald on alto).  That blissful chorus in the middle split between Chris and Frank sounded as if Teddy and Lester had decided to honor Bix in 1938:

SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA originally came from Don Redman but has been associated with Louis for nearly eighty years now, and for good reason.  Menno shows just how well he knows that tradition, and the band is in the groove with him.  The tiptoeing reed interlude that follows his solo suggests the Alec Wilder Octet, which is always a good thing, before Chris reminds us that Earl Hines liked this composition as well, and David has his say before a neat ensemble rocks this one to a sweet conclusion: 

And, to end this too-brief program, a subtly intense reinvention of RING DEM BELLS which suggests the great Hampton recording as well as the Ellington originals.  Catch Menno’s delighted grin at Chris’s interpolation of some Willie “the Lion” Smith in his solo.  And then the band offers us (as an encore) an on-the-spot alternate take! 

What a phenomenal small group — with a perfectly integrated subtle rhythm section as well. 

To go back to the Twenties, I’d have to say, “The way this band rocks is just too bad.”

My title comes from a Lucky Thompson line, but it fits here: you don’t learn how to play like this overnight, and you don’t do it with such skill without having a deep passion for swinging jazz as part of your essential self.