Tag Archives: Don Wolff

GOOD FEELINGS: DANNY TOBIAS, KENNY DAVERN, TOM ARTIN, JOHN BUNCH, JOHN BEAL, TONY DeNICOLA at the 2004 MARCH OF JAZZ

Hot jazz can be both leisurely and intense.  It doesn’t have to be too loud or too fast. And the best musicians do the neat trick of honoring their ancestors while sounding exactly like themselves.

New evidence of this — a swing session by masters, recorded in 2004 — has recently surfaced.  It comes from Mat and Rachel Domber’s (the team responsible for so much joy on Arbors Records) MARCH OF JAZZ in celebration of Kenny Davern’s birthday, and the noble, gently convincing participants are Kenny, clarinet; Danny Tobias, cornet; Tom Artin, trombone; John Bunch, piano; John Beal, string bass; Tony DeNicola, drums.

Kenny Davern is justly the most famous and perhaps the most missed person on stage, but I would like to draw your attention also to the cornet player.

Young Mister Tobias plays with easy lyrical grace.  When I first heard him a decade ago (as the trumpet with Kevin Dorn’s Traditional Jazz Collective at the Cajun) I was instantly a convert and fan.  At the end of the first set, I went over, introduced myself, and said, “You sound beautifully.  I guess you also like Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, don’t you?”  He grinned, and we became friends.

Please enjoy, observe, and commit to memory:

JAZZ ME BLUES:

SUGAR:

and a most remarkable ALL OF ME, in a romantic tempo (the romance isn’t diminished by Kenny’s silent-film comedy gestures at the start):

I asked Danny what he remembered about this session:

I was delighted that Kenny got me on the event.  I remember being very nervous playing because in the hospitality room, on the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel the other musicians watched the stage via closed circuit TV.  I was, and am, in awe of the musicians who were in attendance that weekend. I remember talking to Bucky, Joe Wilder, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, and many more. I had no idea what Kenny would call, and was relieved when he asked the audience if anyone had played “All of Me” yet that weekend?  He then turned to the band and said, “Nobody played it like this!” and counted off the slowest tempo I’ve ever heard for that tune.  It could have been painful but with Bunch, and Tony DeNicola it was pure bliss. Watching the video reminds me of how lucky I was to be able to make music with these masters. Kenny was so generous with me.  He would make me tapes of PeeWee, Joe Sullivan, Irving Fazola, Johnny Dodds, etc. When I heard the recording of “Who Stole the Lock?” I flipped out!  It was clear after listening to these records that Kenny incorporated these players into his playing. For example when he would soar into the final chorus on a gliss, I knew that he was channeling Fazola.  He would, after a gig, invite me to hear something in his car. Sometimes it was a rare recording of Benny Goodman playing tenor, or William Furtwangler conducting movement of a Beethoven symphony.

I miss Tony, and John Bunch, and Kenny.  But I feel good that I knew how good it was when it was happening and let them know I felt.

Danny Tobias is a modest fellow with a true subtle talent, and in these videos you can experience what many already know, that he is a master among masters.

And — as a postscript — it reminds me how much I and everyone who knew him miss Mat Domber. (Rachel, bless her, is still with us.)  I believe these videos were done by the faithful and diligent Don Wolff: bless and thank him, too.

May your happiness increase!

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BOBBY GORDON, JAZZ POET

Clarinetist / singer Bobby Gordon is one of the great poets of jazz.  I won’t say he’s “unsung” because the people who know love his delicate traceries.  And Bobby certainly knows how to sing!

I could write a paragraph on his sweet quirky lyricism, his way of finding the delicious surprising notes that go right to our hearts — but eight bars of Bobby will do it better than any description.

Here he is at the 1997 Mid-America Jazz Festival — thanks to Don Wolff for the video! — with Marty Grosz and Greg Cohen, on a tender IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN:

Something sweet from the same session (with Peter Ecklund, cornet; Greg, string bass) prefaced by one of Philosopher / Social Anthropologist / Professor Grosz’s analyses, so true:

Thank you, Bobby, Marty, Peter, Greg, and Don.  This music brings the sun in the room.

May your happiness increase.

KENNY DAVERN’S ART AND CRAFT (2004)

TO HONOR KENNY DAVERN, CLICK HERE: ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!

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Don Wolff, our generous benefactor, has offered these performances by Kenny Davern’s favorite quartet from a 2004 New Jersey Jazz Society concert. 

Half of this quartet — Kenny and his favorite drummer, Tony DiNicola — are gone.  Happily, guitarist James Chirillo and bassist Greg Cohen are very much on the scene.

These performances mix intensity and lightness, and although I’ve sometimes thought that Davern, at this stage of his career, was more concerned with polishing his craft than taking risks, I realize that such hair-splitting is meaningless when faced with such music and the void Kenny left when he died.  The discussion between those who privilege the “art” of improvisation and the “craft” of perfecting your approach to a particular song seems less important than the result.   

Those of us who saw and admired Kenny — whether on clarinet, soprano saxophone, baritone or even bass sax — will find themselves caught up in his particular ethos immediately.  If you never had the chance to see and hear this irreplaceable man, here he is, with his most noble friends:

I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY:



WILD MAN BLUES:

AM I BLUE?:

BEALE STREET BLUES:

ARBORS JAZZ PRESENTS MARTY GROSZ and THE HOT WINDS (January 2011)

Thanks to the 3rd Annual Arbors Invitational Jazz Party just held in Florida (through the generous love of the music displayed by Mat and Rachel Domber) and the videography of Don Wolff, we can enjoy some enthusiastic swing by Marty Grosz, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Vince Giordano, and Arnie Kinsella. 

These clips (and many more) come from the “ArborsJazz” and “MrDonWolff” channels on YouTube . . .  

Here’s JAZZ ME BLUES, which rocks irresistibly from its opening notes.  Catch the delicious interplay among the three reeds, and the smile on Scott’s face when Vince switches to his aluminum string bass.  Savor the variations of timbre and attack the reed players bring on — this whole performance could be a tribute to Kenny Davern, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Teschmacher, and Adrian Rollini — over that galloping, just-right rhythmic pulse.  Marty, of course, has managed to wholly internalize Fats Waller’s stride on his guitar.  And those spontaneous riffs at the end:

IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN, such a pretty tune, brings on the “Mystery Song” by Horace Gerlach (believe this vaudeville gambit at your peril) and an exposition by Professor Grosz on the music business and the questions of compositional integrity.  What sublime tenderness elevates this performance, from Marty’s sweet ballad tribute to Louis to Scott’s just-right cornet and onwards:

In the bar, for the listening and dancing pleasure of the lucky patrons, here’s “the band within a band,” the informal duet of Block and Grosz.  What is this band called?  The Hot Wind?  The Balmy Zephyr?  One Stiff Breeze?  But I digress.

Marty and Dan offer I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (complete with a classic Martyian exposition of facts and satire):

Following that, a delightful exposition of Hoagy Carmichael’s JUBILEE:

And an impromptu but swinging ALL MY LIFE:

I initially thought, “This is music to die for,” but then amended it to “music to LIVE FOR (and LIVE BY).”  Better, no?

HORACE GERLACH SAYS: CLICK THE LINK BELOW IN THE NAME OF SWING (ALL PROCEEDS GO TO THE MUSICIANS)! 

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“YEAH! TAKE ANOTHER!” MARTY GROSZ and the ORPHAN NEWSBOYS, 1997

Videographer and radio broadcaster Don Wolff is my idea of a jazz philanthropist. 

After I posted one performance that Don had published (as “MrDonwolff”) on YouTube — by Marty Grosz, Peter Ecklund (cornet), Bobby Gordon (clarinet), and Greg Cohen (bass) —       https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/characteristically-marty-grosz-the-orphan-newsboys-1997/ — I asked Don if there were any more at home like that.  There were and there are. 

This set came from the 1997 Mid-America Jazz Festival, and it finds the quartet in wonderful form.  The rhythm pulse is something to marvel at, thanks to the fine teamwork of Marty and Greg; the horns are splendidly lyrical and hot.  And Marty’s inimitable commentaries are here preserved for future cultural historians. 

Bobby Gordon wears his emotions proudly — no more openly than in a ballad performance such as IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, that Thirties narrative of heartbreak and hoped-for reconcilliation.  Who needs more than two choruses?:

DON’T BE THAT WAY is such a pretty song when removed from big-band performance ritual (there’s a touching version from 1938 — one of John Hammond’s many fine ideas — featuring Lester Young and Buck Clayton, approaching this song as a sweet rhythm ballad).  Here, Peter’s pastoral whistling sets the mood instantly, leading to a gentle vocal.  The often acidic Mr. Grosz is — to my ears — a peerless singer of love songs at this tempo and even out-and-out ballads, and he outdoes himself here.  Peter suggests 1928 Bix at points, and Bobby, in his inimitable tender wanderings, evokes and outdoes his mentor Joe Marsala before the eloquent Greg Cohen has his say before Marty (imploring his favorite “fat mama” to be gentle) leads into a fade-out with a surprise:

And to close — a paean to romance of a different kind, EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, where Peter growls the message to us through that archaic but useful jazz fashion accessory, the metal derby, before Bobby takes a more tender approach to his amorous declarations, before Marty and Greg show us why rhythm was born. 

This performance, by the way, is the source of my title — a Grosz exhortation from the old days:

As I write this, Don is getting ready to record more of Marty and his esteemed friends at the 2011 Arbors International Jazz Party in Florida — I can’t wait!

CHARACTERISTICALLY MARTY GROSZ: THE “ORPHAN NEWSBOYS” (1997)

I’m delighted that the tireless videographer Don Wolff has decided to share another performance from his archives with us — this one from the 1997 Mid-America Jazz Festival in St. Louis. 

It features Marty Grosz in classic form: bespoke bowtie and striped shirt, verbal effusiveness in full flower, describing the “joints” of yesteryear . . . before inviting the boys to swing out — “the boys” being the dewy Peter Ecklund (cornet), Bobby Gordon (clarinet), and Greg Cohen (string bass).

And swing out they certainly do — on WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, at a wonderfully leisurely tempo suitable for romance over Lapsang Souchong, or perhaps Earl Grey:

More, please, Don?

KENNY DAVERN, IRREPLACEABLE

Thanks to Don Wolff for recording and posting this splendidly moving reading of ONE HOUR — from the 1997 Mid-America Jazz Festival — by Kenny, Howard Alden, Johnny Varro, Bob Haggart, and Joe Ascione.  Majesty, simplicity, delicacy, and power . . . . and the first chorus alone is a graduate seminar in lovely melodic embellishment:

And when you’ve gotten through marveling at what Kenny plays, fore and aft, check Johnny Varro’s one chorus — equally marvelous, understated, easy to overlook. 

Don Wolff’s YouTube channel is “MrDonWolff” or a reasonable facsimile thereof — worth several hours of fascinated watching . . . .