Tag Archives: Dwayne Ramsey

“DINNER MUSIC” FROM MAL SHARPE and THE BIG MONEY IN JAZZ at FIOR D’ITALIA (March

Mos people know Mal Sharpe (with one of his current bands, the Big Money in Jazz) as someone who inspires audiences with exuberant music. But he and his musicians can create very subtle music as well, Jelly Roll Morton’s “sweet, soft, plenty rhythm.” It’s music to dine by. Of course, with Mal in charge, it will be colorful, lively, witty — quiet but never dull.

Mal’s smaller version of his classic band floats along without piano or drums, and with Mal’s playing and singing; Jim Gammon, cornet; Dwayne Ramsey, clarinet, tenor saxophone, vocal; Bill DeKuiper, guitar; Paul Smith, string bass and wordless vocal. . . .evoking New Orleans grit and the Kansas City Six.

This band plays every Wednesday night from 6 to 9 at the well-known Italian restaurant, Fior d’Italia (2237 Mason Street) in North Beach, San Francisco, and we came by for a meal and a serenade on March 19, 2014. Here are some of the musical highlights. You’ll have to invent the culinary ones for yourself: here are the menus.

JUST A LITTLE WHILE TO STAY HERE (the band’s theme and Mal’s offhanded sermon on carpe diem and tempus fugit, too):

MEAN TO ME (a rhetorical statement only):

SHINE (that splendid, misinterpreted song):

STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE (appropriate to a restaurant with various grilled meats, no?):

JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE (soulfully sung by Dwayne):

And for an effervescent dessert, on the last number of the second set, San Francisco’s irrepressible jazz singer Kellye Gray was compelled to join the band with a rare whistling solo on DINAH:

Fior d’Italia is a North Beach classic, known for a varied menu, a comfortable ambiance, a sweet-natured staff . . . and the best dinner music you can think of on Wednesday evenings.

May your happiness increase!

“SQUEEZE AND RELEASE,” or “THE MAL SHARPE SHOWCASE”: ANOTHER SUNDAY IN SAUSALITO with MAL SHARPE, DWAYNE RAMSEY, CLINT BAKER, SI PERKOFF, PAUL SMITH, and CARMEN CANSINO (Dec. 23. 2012)

I don’t quite remember how we found out about Mal Sharpe’s regular sessions (his Big Money in Jazz Band) at the No Name Bar in Sausalito (Sunday), the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach (Saturday), and Armando’s in Martinez (one Thursday a month), but these anything-can-happen festivities have been a continuing pleasure.

Mal is not only an engaging trombonist / singer; he also enjoys the possibilities of improvising in front of — and with — an audience.  So at the same time the Beloved and I have enjoyed the down-home sounds, we’ve also been delighted by the chances Mal takes . . . quizzing the audience, muttering philosophically just loud enough to be heard, having a good time.  And Mal surrounds himself with some of the best musicians, who drive the band and provide subtle moments for an attentive crowd.

My title — somewhat mysterious in itself, perhaps — can be untangled or interpreted for readers too impatient to watch all the videos at the start of SUNNY SIDE below.

Here are five slices-of-life from December 23, courtesy of Mal, Clint Baker, trumpet; Paul Smith, string bass; Dwayne Ramsey, reeds; Carmen Cansino, drums; Si Perkoff, piano.

Mal becomes more anatomical than we might expect on his vocal rendition of ROSETTA:

IF I HAD YOU (with the bridge given over to Carmen, our heroine):

Clint stomps off SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET at the 1938 Louis-Fats jam session tempo:

Need spiritual counseling?  The Reverend Dwayne lays it out for us with soul on JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE:

And I know they heard this musical trilogy all the way over in Provincetown — I FOUND A NEW BABY / THE SONG IS ENDED / Closing Ceremonies:

Something different . . . unpredictable . . . hot jazz and hilarity intertwined.

May your happiness increase.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: MAL SHARPE and BIG MONEY IN JAZZ at the SAVOY TIVOLI (Aug. 25, 2012)

New York has so much to recommend it, but I miss Mal Sharpe’s jazz soirees in Sausalito, in Martinez, and at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, San Francisco.  Here are three pertinent pieces of evidence, recorded on August 25, 2012: Leon Oakley, cornet; Mal, trombone and spiritual guidance; Dwayne Ramsey, clarinet, soprano saxophone, vocal; Si Perkoff, keyboard; Paul Smith, string bass, Carmen Cansino, drums.  And seated right in front of us was jazz legend / art legend Charles Campbell, having a good time — a model for us all!

A nice yearning AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, its tempo true to the lyrics:

Mister Morton’s WOLVERINE BLUES:

Rarely do I post an incomplete performance — this one is cut short because of my miscalculation of battery strength — but Dwayne’s vocal on BLUE, TURNING GREY is so powerfully emotional that I couldn’t consign it to the unseen archives.  Prepare yourself for incompleteness but also for great feeling:

May your happiness increase.

NOT ONCE, BUT FOUR OR FIVE TIMES: MAL DOES MARTINEZ (August 23, 2012)

One of the great pleasures of this summer stay in California has been the opportunity to hear / enjoy / talk with / delight in the remarkable Mal Sharpe, larger than life and I don’t mean in height or girth.  His music, his wildly improvised deadpan comedies, his stage presence . . . a remarkable fellow indeed.

Once a month, on a Thursday, Mal brings his Big Money in Jazz Band to Armando’s in Martinez — a very pleasant place (more a social club than a nightspot) run by the amiable Roy Jeans.  August 23 was Mal’s “Dixieland” immersion — for our benefit.

He played trombone and sang; Dwayne Rambey played clarinet, tenor saxophone, and soprano, and also sang; Clint Baker sat in the back and directed jazz traffic while playing the banjo or the guitar; youngblood / swing star Sam Rocha gave his all on tuba; fiery Jim Gammon poured his heart into his trumpet; swinging Roy Blumenfeld, drums.  (Notice that a few performances begin with an impromptu Gammon – Baker duet, reminding me of 1928 Louis and Johnny St. Cyr, very happily).

Here are four musical treats and one avian interlude.  For your dining and dancing pleasure, of course.

HINDUSTAN (where there are still a few parking spaces for caravans and no meters):

A magnificent piece of musical architecture — FOUR OR FIVE TIMES — our delight, doin’ things right:

THE SHEIK OF ARABY, clothed or not:

An ancient folktale about a member of the avian family.  Caution!  It contains a naughty word:

And a beautifully earnest reading of JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE:

Wasn’t that nice?

May your happiness increase.

A CASUAL GIG IN MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA (Aug. 25, 2011)

Armando’s in Martinez has beer, wine, and a good deal of jovial amusement from a fairly local audience who came to hear the band.  This little bar / club / hangout is located on 707 Marina Vista; it features a variety of good music, as the regulars know.  See their schedule (and the painted chairs) at http://www.armandosmartinez.com

But I went to see and hear a particular band: Mal Sharpe’s BIG MONEY IN JAZZ (a whimsical title for sure) — drawn from a floating collection of players.  On August 25, 2011, the band was Mal (trombone, vocal, and stern leadership), Jim Gammon (trumpet), Dwayne Ramsey (reeds), Jeff Hamilton (piano), Simon Planting (bass), Roy Blumenfeld (drums).  (Mal’s group appears at Armando’s on the last Thursday of each month and at other venues as well.  But he’s got too many identities to harness them into one website — Google “Mal Sharpe” and see for yourself.)

It’s rewarding to know that this version of jazz — loose and unbuttoned but expert — still thrives.  I admire Jim’s power and precision, Dwayne’s passion and expertise.  And Mal is very modest about his trombone playing, but he’s devoted to Vic Dickenson, and some of that humor and slyness comes through.  (Mal is a splendid bandleader as well: years in show business of every variety have taught him how to make an audience feel comfortable in minutes.)  Simon’s bass and Roy’s drums have their own individualistic sounds, and Jeff (yes, that Jeff Hamilton) creates swinging clouds at the keyboard — from stomp to impressionism in the space of a solo, most rewardingly.

Hear what this band does with four jazz classics.

Hello, Central, give me DR. JAZZ:

LADY BE GOOD:

SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

It’s reassuring that bands like this still exist, and that places like Armando’s provide a comfortable place for them to play — and the audience was having a good time.  What more could anyone want?