Some jazz parties and festivals visibly deflate in their final hours. Not the 2012 Jazz Bash by the Bay — also known as Dixieland Monterey. This was, for me, the final set of the three-day blowout, and it was a delight.
Once again, the sly truth came out: the Reynolds Brothers don’t have the international reputation their music deserves, and on some festival bills they aren’t the band whose name appears in the largest font.
But they exude jazz pheronomes — or, to put it more simply, the best musicians on the bill always make it a point to sit in with John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Katie Cavera, and Marc Caparone. It’s the jazz equivalent of a civilian finding the restaurant where the chefs eat on their night off. The noble sitters-in were John Sheridan, piano; Allan Vache, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, unamplified vibraphone. “Three Johns, no waiting,” says Mr. John Reynolds at the start.
The set started right off with an enthusiastic affirmation — saying YES to life is a good thing! — I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:
Another affirmation, even when it’s couched as a question by way of Fats Waller, AIN’T ‘CHA GLAD?:
One of Ralf’s many secrets is that he did graduate work in European history . . . who better to instruct the crowd in historical geography with CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS . . . making Merry, of course. Merry says hello:
From raillery to romance with the help of Dawn Lambeth, the living embodiment of what Louis called “tonation and phrasing,” her subtly textured voice and her speaking rubatos beautifully on display in SUGAR (with majestically quiet help from John Sheridan):
What might seem odd, an instrumental version of a song associated with Bing Crosby, works perfectly, with Marc leading the way into YOUNG AND HEALTHY:
A friend of the music and one of the gracious shapers of the Jazz Bash by the Bay, Sue Kroninger — also a dynamic singer — joined in with WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO, giving Allan a chance to show off his version of early Benny to great advantage with Hamp Cocuzzi and Teddy Sheridan in hot pursuit. 1936, anyone?:
The tempo had to slow down — so here’s a tender I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING. Beneath that serious exterior, John Sheridan is a deep romantic — and his playing of the verse is just another glorious piece of evidence. And it’s not just the verse! Listening to this one again, I think it might have been one of the highlights of the whole weekend:
John’s choice of THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN is always a wise one — not only is it a romping song, but its political / ethical sentiments continue to strike chords today — Thoreau in swingtime:
And — to close — CRAZY RHYTHM — a rendition that truly lives up to its name with a cutting contest or a conversation between Ralf on washboard and John on vibraphone — or at least parts of his vibraphone — that has to be seen to be believed. Or something like that. Crazy, man, crazy! (With very strong echoes of a Hampton Victor circa 1937, too.):
Thank you, Reynolds Brothers. Thank you, friends. Thank you, Merry. Thank you, Jazz Bash by the Bay. I’m ready to make my room reservations for March 2013. Just let me know the dates! Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay is a proven source of joy.
May your happiness increase.