Tag Archives: Davy Mooney

LET ME OFF UPTOWN FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Part Two): “CHRISTMAS STOMP” with GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Columbia University, December 1, 2012)

It bears repeating.

Saturday, December 1, 2012, was a wonderful day (they all are, if you have the right approach to them) but the evening was even better . . . I was fortunate enough to be uptown for the CD release party held at Columbia University.  The party was honoring the Grand Street Stompers on the occasion of their new CD, CHRISTMAS STOMP.  And STOMP they did.  (Learn more about that very pleasing CD here.)

GSS cover

For those of you who couldn’t take the A train (thank you, Billy Strayhorn) or drive uptown, here are some highlights of this most swinging, mobile evening. The participants: Gordon Au on trumpet / arrangements / compositions; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Davy Mooney, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass; Rich Levinson, drums; Tamar Korn, Molly Ryan, vocals — with guest appearances from the amazing dancer Andrew J. Nemr, clarinetist Dan Levinson, saxophonist Adam Lee, singer Margi Gianquinto, and more.

Before we start,a caveat (nicely browned for the holiday season).  The music is wonderful; my videos are somewhat below-par for reasons that anyone who has been in a large hall filled with wonderfully graceful dancers will recognize.  An event such as this (thank you, Lucy!) is organized for the comfort and pleasure of the people who not only know what the Peabody is but are able to do . . . the world is not my sound stage.  Knowing this, I took up a position at the rear of the hall — a happy observer — and recorded what I saw.  In situations such as this, I think, “This is what it was like at the edge of the Savoy Ballroom,” and any discontent vanishes.  Perhaps next year someone will lend me a crane or at least a stepladder and a longer tripod.  Or not.  Here are the remaining marvelous swirling delights I saw and heard on December 1.

It wasn’t wintry outdoors, but Tamar feels it’s always a pleasure to sing I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM:

Moving along in the “I’ve got” cardfile, she beautifully delivers Fats’ I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING:

Molly comes back for IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS:

O HOLY NIGHT is not the vehicle one associates with high-energy jazz, nor with elegantly forceful tap dancing, but when Gordon Au and the Grand Street Stompers meet the wizard Andrew J. Nemr, magic happens.  I only wish I had been at a better angle to focus on those airborne feet.  Next time:

Molly, typically well-behaved, tells of holiday adulteries in I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS.  Let us avert our eyes from this potentially lascivious scene — when the Grand Street Stompers play, we get the presents:

The Three Graces — Molly, Tamar, and Margi — give out with a very sweet WHITE CHRISTMAS:

Victor Herbert never knew his MARCH OF THE TOYS could look and sound like this:

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN is a way to welcome Adam Lee, Lucy Weinman, and Dan Levinson to the holiday stomp:

For the finale, everyone throws caution to the wind — at least metaphysically — for LET YOURSELF GO:

If you’ve enjoyed these experiments in Cinema Very Tea, you’re sure to enjoy the real thing: learn more about the actual CD (a winner no matter what the calendar says) here.

May your happiness increase.

LET ME OFF UPTOWN FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Part One): “CHRISTMAS STOMP” with GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Columbia University, December 1, 2012)

Saturday, December 1, 2012, was a wonderful day (they all are, if you have the right approach to them) but the evening was even better . . . I was fortunate enough to be uptown for the CD release party held at Columbia University.  The party was honoring the Grand Street Stompers on the occasion of their new CD, CHRISTMAS STOMP.  And STOMP they did.  (Learn more about that very pleasing CD here.)

GSS cover

For those of you who couldn’t take the A train (thank you, Billy Strayhorn) or drive uptown, here are some highlights of this most swinging, mobile evening. The participants: Gordon Au on trumpet / arrangements / compositions; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Davy Mooney, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass; Rich Levinson, drums; Tamar Korn, Molly Ryan, vocals — with guest appearances from the amazing dancer Andrew J. Nemr, clarinetist Dan Levinson, saxophonist Adam Lee, singer Margaret Gianquinto, and more.

Before we start,a caveat (nicely browned for the holiday season).  The music is wonderful; my videos are somewhat below-par for reasons that anyone who has been in a large hall filled with wonderfully graceful dancers will recognize.  An event such as this (thank you, Lucy!) is organized for the comfort and pleasure of the people who not only know what the Peabody is but are able to do . . . the world is not my sound stage.  Knowing this, I took up a position at the rear of the hall — a happy observer — and recorded what I saw.  In situations such as this, I think, “This is what it was like at the edge of the Savoy Ballroom,” and any discontent vanishes.  Perhaps next year someone will lend me a crane or at least a stepladder and a longer tripod.  Or not.  Here are the marvelous swirling delights I saw and heard on December 1.

I don’t know if it was because of his essential courtly modesty that Gordon called I MAY BE WRONG to start the evening.  More probably it was because that song (in 1934) became the theme song of the Apollo Theatre, and we were uptown:

WINTER WONDERLAND always used to be formulaic December-it’s-the -holidays-music until I heard Louis sing it with accompaniment / arrangement by Gordon Jenkins . . . .  Here Molly Ryan, fetching in green, steps up to the vocal microphone and reminds us just how pretty this simple 1931 song is: 

Some might presume that IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE (recorded memorably by Mr. Waller) was appropriate because of Santa’s ethical police, but I think swing candor is always valuable.  And Molly sings it without any didacticism:

WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA may have been the first song I ever heard Tamar Korn (all keyed up here, in red) sing.  Her improvisations on the theme remain memorable, sweet, tart, and hot:

Following in the holiday footsteps of Mister Strong, Tamar pretends to be a little anxious, asking the seasonal question, ‘ZAT YOU, SANTA CLAUS?:

And Tamar and the band offer Gordon’s whimsical sweet feline love song, CRAZY EYES:

More to come!  For now, if you’ve enjoyed these experiments in Cinema Very Tea, you’re sure to enjoy the real thing: learn more about the actual CD (a winner no matter what the calendar says) here.

May your happiness increase.

DAVY MOONEY WRITES! (A NOVEL, THAT IS: “HOMETOWN HEROES”)

When a friend gives me a first novel to read, I worry.  Not that I doubt the intelligence, wit, feeling, of my friends — but what if I don’t like it?  What can I say?  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but neither do I want to read a page of something I do not like.  So I am delighted to report that the jazz guitarist / composer / singer Davy Mooney, New Orleans native transplanted to Brooklyn, can write.

Hometown Heroes

In fact, Davy Mooney is a novelist.  His first book, HOMETOWN HEROES, combines the qualities of “a good read” and “a page-turner” with a seriously observant eye for social commentary and occasionally satire.  I won’t give the plot away, but in its 202 pages, you will learn what it feels like to be an improvising musician giving lessons to uninterested middle-schoolers; what’s involved in being a barrista; how it feels to play a jazz solo.  But that’s only the thin edge of it.  Mooney has seen and thought about all kinds of behavior: what Astoria, Queens, and New Orleans feel like in mores, climate, and affections, for one thing.  And he also has a deeper interest in what’s required to be an artist — not that all the guitar players in his book are heroes, martyrs, or geniuses.  One is hugely successful, has a television career, and an incredibly erotic girlfriend; the other might be a fine player, is struggling, and feels despair often.  (The second one, Joe, also tends to philosophize about his ground-level view of the world; Mooney does a lovely job of showing Joe as both sincere and in love with the sound of his own voice, but it’s never irritating.)

But there’s more.  Witches.  Not the Halloween crones, but women with power.  And I mean power — not the comic-book sort, but the energy to repair wrongs and to cause them, to reward the downtrodden and to punish the successful.  Rather like first-rate Golden Era science fiction or the best work of David Lynch, this novel makes a reader feel that there are undercurrents and shifts going on all around us while we drink our coffee, read the newspaper, engage in pleasant conversation.  “What’s going on that we are not aware of?” is one question that the book asks, and in a lightly witty way, “Who runs the show, and why?” is another.

Here’s the story that has been echoing in my head while reading the novel.  In 1942, I think, Billie Holiday and Lester Young (for a moment) joined forces on the West Coast.  Billie had heard and worked with Jimmie Rowles, then quite a young man, and tried to get Lester to invite him into the band.  Lester was suspicious.  Rowles hadn’t a long string of jazz credentials (even though Ben Webster had looked out for him) and, let’s face it, Rowles was “a grey boy,” a Caucasian.  So Lester had to be convinced.  Billie retold the story to Rowles on their 1955 rehearsal tape, “I said to him, ‘I don’t know . . . boy   can   blow!'”

Davy Mooney can blow — at the computer keyboard as well as at the guitar.  HOMETOWN HEROES is worth a good look.  You’ll have fun.

May your happiness increase.

May your happiness increase. 

The GRAND STREET STOMPERS and FRIENDS at The Cupping Room Cafe (Sept. 5, 2012)

I had a delightful evening last Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at the Cupping Room Cafe (359 West Broadway, New York City).  I’d never been to the CRC before, but it’s a very amiable place with great food — and great music, in this case provided by the Grand Street Stompers, Gordon Au’s splendidly flexible little band.

That night, the Stompers were a quartet: Gordon, trumpet, compositions / arrangements, vocals; Oran Etkin, clarinet, tenor; Davy Mooney, guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass — and Friends, two engaging singers, Molly Ryan and Jessie Rogowsky.  The large-screen television to my left provided an amusing surrealistic backdrop for the singers, but the music was triumphant.

Gordon began with a pop tune from 1927 — notable for the recordings that showcase a young Jack Teagarden — but it remains an irresistible melody:

SHE’S A GREAT, GREAT GIRL:

Gordon’s compositions mix comfortable phrases with surprising turns of harmony in delightful ways.  Here’s SOIGNEE (which means “sophisticated, elegant” — appropriately:

Wisdom, it’s said, is embracing one’s Not Knowing.  In that spirit, here’s I NEVER KNEW:

Molly joined the Stompers for a pretty WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MADE:

And she found new ways to imbue I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME with sweet delight:

The Stompers took their time, gratifyingly, with AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES:

Not only did Gordon write music and lyric for a sweetly off-center love song, SOMEHOW THE WORLD HAS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN, he delivers it most winningly:

Back to 1917 for FIDGETY FEET:

And another, more obscure song of that time — with patented Stompers choreography, CLEOPATRA HAD A JAZZ BAND:

Doctor Ryan prescribes a new level of curative relaxation, LET YOURSELF GO:

Something for Louis (and Mildred), SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH — Molly stretches out luxuriantly on the final bridge:

Jessie Rogowski, posed against a background of Giant football, pays it no mind, and offers a sweet DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME:

And we close off with Gordon’s own SUN TIME:

You can tell how fine the music was, but what you’ll have to take on faith for the moment is that the CRC is such a pleasing place — great attentive service and huge platefuls of food, and an overall quiet ambiance, so different from other places we know where music is played.  This night was also my first introduction to reedman Oran Etkin — with his delightfully bright clarinet and floating tenor sax lines.  And the Grand Street Stompers brought a wonderful floating intensity to their performances — a modern version of an imagined Kansas City Four.

May your happiness increase.

THE THINGS WE LOVE, or ROMPING AT RADEGAST: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS with TAMAR KORN (April 18, 2012)

How lucky we are to have these young cats swinging out for us!  Those of us who can get to Radegast know what I mean — the delicious combination of hot music among friends, with a side order of swing dancing, uplifting food and drink.

If you’ve never been to Radegast, it is well worth the trip — a spiritual oasis of its own singular kind, where the ambient music is often Sidney Bechet, Walter Page, and Jonah Jones.  The Radegast Hall and Biergarten — to give it its formal appellation — is located at 113 North 3rd Street  Brooklyn, NY 11211 — parking is easy at night.  Click here to see their schedule of hot bands.

Here are four performances from Wednesday, April 18, 2012 — to lift you up and get you in the groove in the best way.  The Elevators are Gordon Au, trumpet, compositions, arrangements; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Peter Maness, string bass; Davy Mooney, guitar; Tamar Korn, vocal.

Let’s start with a genuine Thirties love song written by Gordon Au in the twenty-first century, SOMEHOW THE WORLD HAS TURNED UPSIDE-DOWN, with vocalizing by Tamar:

Then, a sweetly romping 1931 favorite — uplifting even if you put stevia in your latte: WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

A spicy Latin-flavored MUSKRAT RAMBLE:

And an encouragement to be candid.  IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE, you know:

Good deal!

These musicians are playing gigs all over — so be sure to get on their email lists / websites / Facebook pages to keep up with them.  The people who lament the aging audience for jazz, the sad necrology of the music . . . come hear this band: they are the past, present, future rolling on!

May your happiness increase.

 

AT HOME WITH DAVY MOONEY: SEARCHING LYRICISM (April 4, 2012)

Guitarist / singer / songwriter Davy Mooney lights up the music wherever he is — playing obbligati to another vocalist, swinging the rhythm in the Grand Street Stompers, spinning out long lines in the fashion of early Joe Pass.  Before I knew anything about him, he had caught my ear.  And he is clearly more than simply a superb band guitarist, as his new CD, PERRIER STREET, proves.  On this Sunnyside CD, Davy is joined by Gordon Au, trumpet; John Cowherd, piano; Brian Blade, drums; Johnaye Kendrick, vocals; Matt Clohessy, bass; John Ellis, tenor sax and bass clarinet.  Here’s a link to find out more and to download the CD.

I missed Davy’s CD release party at the Cornelia Street Cafe, so I proposed a potentially radical idea: I could visit him at home, away from the crash of ice cubes and artificially-dramatic laughter, and record him at home.  He was more than amenable.  Here’s the result: tranquil readings of songs that often have dark messages.

The chiming melody and lines of CRIMSON:

PHELIA (with hints of a barcarolle, Thornhill’s SNOWFALL, and Debussy):

FIRST WORLD DEATH MARCH, a winning combination of jaunty melody and dark lyrics (when “righteous men choose the bloody way”):

The moody ONCE WAS TRUE: “all the voices in the sky are pleading,” a song about God losing faith in human beings:

A nearly hypnotic SWINGSET:

I’d asked Davy to play a “standard,” and he offered a nearly translucent LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE — but wait for the cadenza:

The spinning orchestral velocity of CENTRAL SUPPLY:

ALL OF HER, a “sad song,” secretly based on a familiar nursery rhyme:

Davy told me that his guitar is a semi-hollow seven-string archtop tuned to a low A, created by the Louisianan Jimmy Foster, who died in 2011.  What sounds he gets from it!

If any other improvising soloists want to arrange an at-home session, let’s talk!

May your happiness increase.

“A WONDERFUL BAND”: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS at RADEGAST, Dec. 13, 2011

The title for this post isn’t my enthusiastic invention.  The very creative Peter Ecklund came over to me to say hello during a set break while the GSS were playing at Radegast (Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York) and his first words were “Isn’t this a wonderful band?”  I agreed — and the fact that he phrased it as a rhetorical question takes nothing away from its truth.

Peter was speaking of Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers — who, for their Dec. 13, 2011, holiday visitation, were made up of composer / arranger / trumpeter Gordon; reedman Matt Koza; trombonist Emily Asher; guitarist Davy Mooney; bassist Debbie Kennedy; singer Molly Ryan.  (Also in the house were friends Marianne Mangan and Robert Levin.  And the Official GSS Person, Veronica Lynn Day.)

You’ll find so much to admire here: the swing, the arrangements and compositions; the hot / sweet soloing and singing.  I especially admire Gordon’s originals: they lilt and trot like the best jazz tunes or pop songs of the past (I find myself humming them — a sure sign of permanence!) but they take unusual twists: they don’t follow formulaic paths — melodically or harmonically.  We begin with three — ranging from a hot march to two rhythm ballads.  Then there are pretty vocals by Molly Ryan, ukulele and whistling from Peter Ecklund, and the casually intense playing by every member of this band.  They are indeed wonderful!

PISMO BEACH PARADE:

SARATOGA SERENADE:

I want to know what Gordon’s title ONCE, DEAR means.  Is it “once” as in a numerical concept, or is it “once,” referring to the past?  If I know, then I can begin to whimsically compose the lyrics in my head, without ever expecting to hear anyone sing them:

I have had a soft spot for SHE’S A GREAT, GREAT GIRL for thirty-five years, ever since I heard it on a Jack Teagarden RCA Victor Vintage compilation — with Jack’s solo bursting out in the open (with great sympathetic assistance from Vic Berton’s tympani).  But I am also fond of the vocal version I heard in the last year or two, where the male singer, obviously besotted beyond reason by the Girl he loves, offers to “give up golfing, even give up my meals,” if he could only hear “the tap-tap of her heels.”  Not bad for late Twenties pop song lyrics, I vow:

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — sweetly sung by our own Molly Ryan and strummed by Peter Ecklund:

Molly says I’LL BE  HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: 

Peter Ecklund is one of the great whistlers I know (along with John Reynolds) and it was a treat to hear him breathe new life into SWEET SUE:

And — as a joint tribute to Walt Disney, Louis Armstrong, and a man in a bear suit — Molly tells us all about the BARE NECESSITIES:

A good time can be had by all: just appear where Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers (or perhaps one of the smaller versions) are playing.