Tag Archives: Don Neely

ON THE ROAD TO MONTEREY (March 2014)

I am not readjusting Kipling’s famous lines for the twenty-first century, simply reminding everyone that the Jazz Bash by the Bay (a/k/a Dixieland Monterey) is almost here.  Think of this blogpost as a public service announcement, more exciting but just as necessary as those reminders to change the battery in your smoke detector.

Here is the schedule of sets for Friday / Saturday / Sunday (that’s March 7-8-9) . . . very good news indeed, with music from Rebecca Kilgore, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, High Sierra, Dawn Lambeth, Jeff Hamilton, Marty Eggers, Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Bob Draga, Gordon Au, his brothers and uncle How, the Ellis Island Boys, Katie Cavera, Le Jazz Hot, Paul Mehling, Sam Rocha, Bob Schulz, Ray Skjelbred, Jason Wanner, Bob Draga, Danny Coots, Yve Evans, Frederick Hodges, Sue Kroninger, Virginia Tichenor, Steve Apple, Chris Calabrese, Don Neely, Eddie Erickson, Ed Metz, Phil Flanigan . . . . and I know I am leaving out a multitude here. But the music starts on Thursday night, so be sure to get there early!

Here is information on ticket pricing, ordering, and all that intriguing data.

I think JAZZ LIVES readers who live in California know all about the Jazz Bash by the Bay, for it has been generously offering hot music of all kinds for three decades.  If the festival is new to you, and you can consider being there, you should: it has been a consistent pleasure for me since the first deliriously good one I attended in March 2010. I won’t belabor the subject, but if you search this blog for “Monterey” you will find enough wonderful improvisatory evidence; if you go to YouTube and type in “Dixieland Monterey” or “Jazz Bash by the Bay” the same thing will happen.  A powerful series of advertisements for those who can carpe the diem while the diem is still hot, or something like that.

May your happiness increase!

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RIPENESS IS ALL: JAZZ ON THE VINE AT CLINE CELLARS (July 13, 2013)

Might I remind my Northern California friends of something good (“algo bueno,” as Dizzy Gillespie would have said) on Saturday, July 13, 2013?

JazzFestPoster_2013

Some details.  You might want to take notes here.  Five venues, music going on simultaneously — the BARREL ROOM, the MISSION, the GREAT LAWN, the TASTING ROOM DECK, and the PIANO CORNER.  The bands are listed above; the piano sessions feature Ray Skjelbred, Bob Hirsch, Virginia Tichenor, and the Ragtime Skedaddlers.  Music from 11:00 AM to 6:30 PM, which is jazz enough for anyone.  In beautiful Sonoma, too!

And — the way things go at beautiful establishments like Cline Cellars — I have reason to expect there will be wonderful beverages in glasses and delicious things to eat . . . . for you to purchase.  My previous dealings with Cline have all been more than pleasant, even though this is the first Day of the Dixieland I have been to.  So I am looking forward to great combinations, say MABEL’S DREAM with a glass of zinfandel . . . anything is possible!

Picnic-Basket-Buttermilk-Fried-Chicken

I also hear tell that you can bring your own picnic, but be sure to bring more than you need, so that you can offer your jazz heroes and heroines a piece of fried chicken, a hard-boiled or deviled egg: playing jazz is hungry work.  They’ll love you for it.

Details and tickets here.

May your happiness increase! 

DOIN’ THE SONOMA STOMP: JAZZ and WINE in EQUAL MEASURE at CLINE CELLARS (July 13, 2013)

For those who love jazz but never make it to clubs (dark, noisy, too late) and festivals (too much of an investment) here’s a simpler kind of gratification: a one-day jazz party in a beautiful Sonoma, California vineyard on Saturday, July 13.  

I don’t know the personnel of every band, but I am making some educated guesses that Clint Baker, Scott Anthony, Ray Skjelbred, Marty Eggers, Don Neely, Andrew Storer, Steve Apple, Virginia Tichenor, Leon Oakley, Robert Young, Frederic Hodges, and Pat Yankee will be there.  (Feel free to add your name in a comment if I have unintentionally left you out.)

I also know that there will be beautiful vistas for the eye (vineyards tend to be spectacular) and intriguing things to eat and drink, or the reverse.    

JazzFestPoster_2013

It should be a simply swell affair.

May your happiness increase!

SOME FUN! MAL SHARPE and BIG MONEY IN JAZZ at THE NO NAME BAR IN SAUSALITO (August 12, 2012)

I love having one or more steady weekly jazz gig to rely on for pleasure.  In New York, the week leans towards The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho) where the EarRegulars play every Sunday night from 8-11.

In California, where we are at the moment, it’s the No Name Bar in Sausalito (757 Bridgeway) where Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz Band play and cavort every Sunday from 3-6 PM.

Last Sunday, August 12, 2012, the Masters of Melody and Mirth were Mal himself, trombone, vocal, and improvisatory wanderings; Andrew Storar, trumpet, vocal; Don Neely, metal clarinet, soprano saxophone, vocal; Si Perkoff, keyboard, vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass; Carmen Cansino, drums.

IN the video highlights, that follow, while you’re admiring the front line: Andrew’s shining, understated leaps and rolls, Mal’s gutty melodic underpinnings, Don’s soaring lines, don’t forget the rhythm section.  Si makes that old keyboard sound better than anyone else with his cheerfully surprising chords and rustles; Sam could support a huge band with his rocking foundation, and Carmen would make Jo Jones break into a large grin because her time is splendid and she gets the punchline of every musical joke.  (You don’t always see Carmen in my shots but you hear her, and the band knows she’s there.)

Here are some highlights from the afternoon’s festivities.

Let’s begin with an intriguing pairing.  JAR is an otherwise unrecorded piece of folk poetry, a collaboration between Horace Gerlach and Lawrence Ferlinghetti; when Andrew sings the Claude Hopkins – Alex Hill song, it has no hesitation, no “WOULD” in the title, because Andrew is a very earnest fellow who WILL do anything for you.

SWING THAT JAR / I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

The Forties Ellington favorite, whose title has been bent into a variety of shapes by witty jazz musicians, DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE:

Don Neely is a very candid fellow with a deep affection for Fats Waller, so IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE was a natural choice:

A romping TIN ROOF BLUES (with some socio-political commentary from Mal):

Not only does Don want everyone to be totally honest, he also encourages marital fidelity in MAKIN’ WHOOPEE:

Although Irving Berlin’s song is somewhat sad, the atmosphere at the No Name Bar is reassuringly cheerful, as evidenced in THE SONG IS ENDED / CLOSING CEREMONIES:

Our Sunday pleasure!

May your happiness increase.

(ANOTHER) SUNDAY IN SAUSALITO WITH MAL (July 15, 2012)

It was a sunny afternoon in Sausalito, California, Sunday, June 15, but I and enlightened souls chose the semi-darkness of the No Name Bar (757 Bridgeway) from 3-6 PM for the good hot music and sweet ballads and occasional hijinks of trombonist / philosophical wanderer Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz Band.  It was fun, and often even more memorable than that.

Incidentally, yelp.com lists the No Name Bar as a “dive bar,” but as one of the patrons said, “I know dive bars, and this is no dive bar.”  The No Name is rather too clean and congenial to qualify . . . sorry!

Mal had with him Paul Smith, string bass; Carmen Cansino, drums; Si Perkoff, keyboard and vocals; Tom Schmidt, clarinet, alto, and vocal; Andrew Storar, trumpet and vocals: a very cohesive group, as you will shortly find out.

People who might only know Mal from his many public lives might be unaware of his work as a jazz trombonist and singer.  In the first of those roles, he is a fine ensemble player — simple, uncluttered, propulsive; as a soloist he emulates Vic Dickenson and Dicky Wells, happily!  Paul Smith is a subtle bassist whose time and taste are delightful; his solos are concise and tasty, and the band rests easily on his foundation.  Drummer Carmen Cansino was new to me, but she’s a wonderfully attentive drummer who catches every musical cue and never gets in the way: her solos have the snap of Wettling or Leeman — a series of well-placed epigrams.  Si Perkoff’s harmonies are supportive, his improvisations eager but never garrulous: he’s a witty, relaxed player with Monkish edges.

The clarinet, by its very nature, inspires some of the most experienced players into unedited exuberance.  Tom Schmidt’s phrases are neat constructions; his sweet / hot alto playing would make Charlie Holmes very happy.  I knew Andrew Storar as the lead trumpet in Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, but was unprepared for how fine a small-band soloist he is — with a graceful, stepping approach and a burnished tone reminiscent of Doc Cheatham.

Andrew, Sy, and Tom are also first-rate singers . . . with markedly different styles.  These six players blend marvelously as a unit — the band rocked through three sets without a letup.

Mal is a sharp-edged improvisatory comedian (he doesn’t tell jokes; he invents situations and then builds them into wonderfully unbalanced edifices) who plays with and off of the crowd.

Here are some of the highlights of another Sunday in the bar with Mal.

A strolling ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, with a vocal that emphasizes the importance of proper refuse recycling:

Mal had created an extended comedy about one Randy Mancini, and other unrelated Mancinis were in the house (that’s Virgina having her photo taken with the band) so MOON RIVER, with a sweet vocal from Andrew, was just the ticket:

Take you down to New Orleans!  BOURBON STREET PARADE:

And Si reminds us that most everyone Wants A Little Girl.  Or boy.  Or someone to share popcorn with:

Keeping the romantic mood, Mal offers SWEET LORRAINE in honor of Nat and Maria Cole:

More New Orleans cuisine — although not for the lactose-intolerant — ICE CREAM:

A hot version of DINAH:

Andrew Storar favors the singing of Dean Martin, and honors him without copying, on EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY:

Turning the No Name Bar into Rick’s wasn’t easy — the carpenters had to work feverishly — but Si delivers AS TIME GOES BY in a more jocular fashion than the last Dooley Wilson:

And to send everyone out into the sun with just a tinge of harmless malice (Lorna in the audience jumped when Mal said those dark words to her . . . ) here’s YOU RASCAL YOU, sung by Tom and Mal:

I know where the GPS will be pointing me next Sunday.  In fact, I think I already know how to get to 757 Bridgeway without the GPS, and given my directional skills, that is the highest tribute I can pay Mal and the Big Money in Jazz All-Star Orchestra.  And don’t forget to say GOOD NIGHT, PROVINCETOWN.  We are, after all, on the air.

May your happiness increase.

FINEST FIG JAM

fig jam

Some history might be needed here.  “A fig,” “a Moldy Fig,” even “a Mouldy Figge,” is now-archaic language invented during the Forties, when jazz found itself divided into warring factions called Dixieland and Bebop.  This divisiveness may have splintered the music and its audiences irrevocably.  Much of the noisy conflict was fomented by journalists and publicists seeking to attract audiences through controversy.  At this distance, we know that GROOVIN’ HIGH is only WHISPERING with a new blouse, but people allowed themselves to ignore this.  I find the poet Philip Larkin very endearing in his art and his vinegary energies, but his jazz prose embodies this point of view, where the world had reached an artistic peak in 1932 with the Rhythmakers recordings and had gone steadily downhill.  I agree with the first part of this formulation but not the second. 

I began my devotional listening as a Fig, so it took a long gradual period of contemplative immersion before I could understand that, say, John Coltrane wasn’t The Enemy out to destroy the music I loved.  In truth, I was never an extremist but I had strong, narrow likes and dislikes.  I remember having a brief conversation with another student in a middle-school Music Appreciation class who was deeply immersed in the New Thing — this was forty-plus years ago and the new thing was Archie Shepp, and the conversation went like this:

“Alan,” which might not be his name, but is a good guess: “I hear you like jazz.”

Me (brightening at having found a fellow subversive): “Oh, yes, I do!”

“Alan”: “Do you listen to Archie Shepp?”

Me (horrified that he hadn’t mentioned Louis, and coming up with a wise-acre New Yorker rejoinder): “Archie Shepp?! I say it’s spinach, and I say to hell with it!”

“Alan”: “Well, the hell with you!”

So goes critical discourse at its finest! 

I would like to boast that I’ve seen the light and the scales have dropped from my eyes, but if you told me I had to choose only one jazz recording to spend eternity with, it still might be AFTER YOU’VE GONE by the Blue Note Jazzmen, even though I can understand and appreciate music that would have perplexed and repelled me in my youth.  And the music was always there, I just didn’t get it. 

This self-scrutiny is provoked by a phone conversation I had yesterday with Bob Rusch (or RDR), editor and chief spiritual guide of the quarterly journal devoted to Creative Improvised Music, CADENCE.  Full disclosure requires me to say that I write reviews for CADENCE, and I continue to admire the journal’s honesty.  And working with Bob has always been a pleasurable lesson in Emersonian candor: when I have felt an inexplicable need to tactfully cloak the truth in polite words, he has always asked, “Why?” 

If you’ve never read CADENCE, you have been missing something special and rare.  See for yourself (www.cadencebuilding.com).

In the course of our conversation — we speak infrequently, but over the past five years it has always been both bracing and affectionate — Bob said gently that he thought I was “getting more figgish,” and I agreed.  But it made me think, and perhaps my experience will ring true with my readers. 

There used to be “the jazz record industry,” and I am not talking about sixty-five years ago, the Commodore Music Shop, and listening booths.  Ten years ago, perhaps, there were many more active companies producing compact discs.  (If you want to have a sobering experience, casually inspect the spines of any fifty CDs in your library and note how many of those labels no longer exist.)  This, of course, has to do with the economy, an aging audience, and more. 

It has had an double-edged result.  On one hand, no more new issues from Chiaroscuro, no more Pablo, fewer ways for musicians to be encouraged by a label.  But because labels no longer exist, many energetic musicians have gone into business for themselves and produce their own discs.  

This can be a boon: musicians can record what they want, have it sound the way they want, without the interference of recording engineers or the heads of record companies . . . and splendid personal statements emerge.  But this asks musicians to be both courageous and affluent (or at least credit-worthy): a self-produced CD might require a $10,000 investment that the artist might get back over ten years of selling the discs one at a time on the gig.  We should all live and be well! 

(Musician joke: “My latest CD is a million-seller.  I’ve got a million in my cellar.”)

Many players I know have made a virtue of necessity, but I think many of them look back nostalgically to the dear dead days when they got a call to go to a studio at noon to make a date, they played their hearts out, they got paid, and eight months later they knew that the disc they had appeared on was being sold all over the world.  Yes, their control over the music was compromised, their pay was a percentage of the profit, but someone else was handling all the annoying business.  

What this means for someone like myself, reviewing CDs, is that a good deal of what I am asked to listen to is by artists new to me (a good thing) who are offering their own music (potentially a good thing).  And occasionally it leads me to sit up in my chair and say, “By God, (s)he’s got it!”  Melissa Collard was new to me when I first heard her OLD-FASHIONED LOVE, and she is one of those singers whose work I most treasure.  Mark Shane, Kevin Dorn, Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, Danny Tobias, Lyle Ritz, Andy Brown, Petra van Nuis, and more.  

But much of what I hear is both competent yet entirely forgettable.  I know that Lips Page said, “The material is immaterial,” but hand me a CD full of original compositions by a player and I wonder, “Gee, you’ve already decided that there’s nothing new for you to say on the blues or on I’VE TOLD EV’RY LITTLE STAR?”  Funny, that hasn’t occurred to Sonny Rollins.

And it is sad to receive a CD by a singer or musician, male or female, where great effort has gone into burnishing the exterior at the expense of other things.  When the artist credits his or her hair stylist and wardrobe person first, I think, “Oh no.  Repertoire, not manicure.  No one listens to the cover.” 

So my “figgishness” or “figitude” (both my own coinings) is a way to get back to what music means to me — a spiritual / intellectual / experience that makes me want to grin foolishly and shout exultantly.  I would indeed rather hear a wonderful performance of an original composition by musicians I don’t know than a tired rendition of OUR BUNGALOW OF DREAMS, but I need to hear jazz that makes me remember why I began to listen to the music in the first place: joy, inventiveness, clear delight in being alive in the face of death.  If your listening is purely an intellectual exercise and you find that gratifying, fine, but mine is tied up with the emotions.  Is the music beautiful?  Does it make me feel some strong emotion, preferably happiness?  Can I admire the players?            

So I close this post with a new example of FINEST FIG JAM — pure, organic, and locally sourced.  It’s another YouTube clip from the lucky and generous SFRaeAnn of the Eldorado Serenaders, whose front line is Don Neely on reeds, Robert Young on reeds, trumpet, and vocal, Dave Frey, plectrum banjo, Jim Young, tenor banjo, Steven Rose, sousaphone, Stan Greenberg, percussion.  This performance of BALTIMORE (one of those delightful songs-about-a-new-dance-craze) honors Bix and Wingy and Red, and I think this band is terribly, admirably brave to be shouting it out in a bookstore.  “Fit audience, though few,” said Milton, but he never had to worry about the tip jar.  It was recorded on October 25, 2009 at North Light Books in Cotati, California.