With the right musicians, a whole crowd isn’t necessary. No four brass, four reeds, four rhythm; no oboes and tympani. As Ira Gershwin wrote, “Keep your Philharmonic,” in his lyrics to SLAP THAT BASS.
Appropriately, I present a rewarding improvised vignette for clarinet and string bass, recorded on July 27, 2017, in Derek Garten’s Prime Recording Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, at the end of the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet’s debut recording, which became THIS IS SO NICE IT MUST BE ILLEGAL, chronicled here. The Quintet, by the way, is Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Steve Pikal, string bass; Marc Caparone, cornet.
At the end of the session, the Quintet — showing superhuman energy and patience — played two songs for my video camera so I could show them off on the blog. One, RUSSIAN RAG, I have cleverly hidden within this blogpost as a reward to close readers.
The other, an improvised duet by Messrs. Pikal and Arntzen, later titled PHAT SWOLLER, has never been seen. I was saving it for my retirement and then thought it would be ungenerous to wait all that time — so here ‘t’is. Joyous, shapely, rambunctious, expert. I’m sure my readers can find their own encomia, but I will say only that Steve Pikal has a beautiful harmonic sense and a true swing engine (a new CD of his with Brian and Danny is, I am told, on the way); a New York musician said to me, listening to Evan Arntzen, “That boy can play anything . . . beautifully!” and I of course agreed:
Relevance beyond a piece of wonderful creative improvisation? Of course. The Holland-Coots ensemble will be appearing at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, which I’ve described here.
My interest in the Festival involves leaving my accustomed position in front of the computer: I’ll be there, starting Wednesday night. But I have to gently admonish the faithful that I no longer video everything, so if you want to hear your favorite virtuoso capering through an obscure Joseph Lamb piece, I suggest you call the airlines now. (That’s a good idea even if you’ve never heard of Lamb.)
May your happiness increase!