I first heard the Louis Armstrong – Earl Hines duet on WEATHER BIRD about fifty years ago, and I write that as a point of pride, not as a marker of senescence. It is a marvel, and if you are unfamiliar with it, please take three minutes and hear it again on YouTube or whatever music-purveyor you use. We’ll wait. (There are at least ten versions on YouTube, one of them the 78 that was Mel Powell’s cherished copy.)
In the past decades, I’ve heard recreations of that recording, most notably the three-trumpet choir that Dick Hyman would assemble for this New York Jazz Repertory Company tributes to Louis. Once I saw them in person — Joe Newman, Pee Wee Erwin, and Mel Davis, with Hyman brilliantly playing Hines (November 4, 1974, Carnegie Hall, issued on an Atlantic Records lp called SATCHMO REVISITED). In 2020, Jerome Etcheberry’s SATCHMOCRACY performed it spectacularly on their first CD. (A second volume has just been issued, and you’ll hear more about it here soon.)
I also had the good fortune to be in the audience at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, created by Joe Boughton, where pianist John Sheridan (also responsible for the transcription heard here) performed WEATHER BIRD with four brass masters: Randy Reinhart and Bob Barnard on cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso and Duke Heitger, trumpet. In 2007, Joe had not yet allowed me to bring my video camera, and he frowned upon recording by other people. So this is a surreptitious illicit bootleg (!) recording made with a digital recorder concealed in my jacket pocket. I trust listeners will forgive the occasional rustle of cloth or human sound. The music is worth it, I assure you.
That we have wonderful evidence of this new group is thanks to the multi-talented string player and videographer Matt Weiner, who earns thanks redoubled. Were it within my powers, this quintet of stars would already have a CD and a concert tour. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a bit for these beneficences, but for the moment we have two videos to savor. The Noonatics are Matt, tenor banjo; Jonathan Doyle, bass saxophone; Andrew Oliver, piano; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Paul Woltz, alto saxophone. And if you detect a resemblance to Jimmie Noone’s Apex club Orchestra, you wouldn’t be making a mistake. But they are working within that sound and repertoire to show off their own delicious musical selves. I don’t know the writer of this brief witty blurb, but it rings true:
The Noonatics were birthed on Port Townsend during a brief morning bass sax and tenor banjo jam between Jonathan Doyle and Matt Weiner.
One foot is firmly planted in the style of the great Jimmie Noone bands of the late 20s and early 30s, but when the boys asked Jacob Zimmerman about joining, he said “let’s not just do the Noone repertoire but any tune that might sound good!” Thus, the band dips the toes on the other foot in all sorts of songs that the Noone band did, might have done, could have done, could not have done, and even some that Jimmie would never have done given the chance.
Here’s some music. I know FOREVERMORE from a lovely Joe Sullivan solo recorded for Commodore Records. The Noonatics are even more touching. And they offer the verse!
And if the room needs heat, CHICAGO RHYTHM:
Matt assures me that more songs were performed and recorded. We’ll be waiting! And since all three reed players double and triple, I wonder if there was some nstrument-switching documented here. But we love them as they are.
I’ve spent years saying YES to things that I would rather not have done, out of the misguided notion that I had to, to be liked, accepted, or praised. Often the appeal was wrapped in flattery, and I accepted the task without considering what a careless acceptance would mean.
Only in later years have I worked on the art of saying NO.
This came out of working with women even more downtrodden than I’d ever been, women who had been compelled to think it would be wrong to refuse a burden.
They were trained to stifle the NO they wanted to say. Or “I just can’t.” “I would prefer not to.” “Isn’t there someone else you can exploit?” “Do it yourself,” or a thousand other self-preserving statements, “Are you fucking kidding me?” being the most candid one.
As I age, I see more clearly the limits of my energy and my desire to preserve myself, but I don’t want to be offensive, or perhaps I don’t want to be perceived as that.
So when my inner voice is saying, in response to some request, “I’d rather die,” I am practicing saying, “I’ve got too much on my plate right now to do it.” Among close friends, I can mutter, “I’d rather stick myself in the face with a plastic fork,” often accompanied by an upward-stabbing gesture of the right hand and arm. But that’s only in my inner circle, and accompanied by hilarity on all sides.
In the recent past (and I know I am not alone in this) I framed the backing-off as an apology, “I’mreally sorry; I’d like to help you, but (a trailing-off pause)” — but it dawned on me that my requester heard only “I’d like to help you” and pressed on.
So no more apologies. A head-shake, a smile, and “I really can’t,” will have to suffice.
What has this got to do with jazz? Wait.
Victoria Spivey wrote this song, NO, PAPA, NO! — which she recorded in 1928, as did Duke Ellington, and Louis. Her version is rather formulaic (although not outdated) — stern statements to a male lover about what he cannot do to her. As my 78 collection expanded over the pandemic, I obtained this disc, with its much more stark title:
Considering this sacred artifact recently provoked thoughts about the self-preserving power of refusal.
But first, the music: a rather light-hearted twelve-bar blues with key changes lifting it out of the predictable, Earl Hines shining through — Louis, looking backwards to Joe Oliver and forward to the way he would approach the blues until his death:
Now, I imagine myself pressed into a corner by someone insistent, someone who won’t honor my feelings as expressed in more intense refusals. At last I have my secret weapon, in reserve as a last resort.
“Michael, I’m begging you. Only you can do this for me. And I’ll always be grateful.”
“Well, let me check with Louis.”
“Yes, Louis always helps me make decisions as important as this. I’ll be back in a few.”
Then I can gather my strength, look closely at the OKeh label, perhaps play the record itself, which won’t take long, and say, “Sorry to make you wait. Louis says NO, and I never disagree with him. Take good care,” and leave.
Here is a piano potpourri from the 1975 Nice Jazz Festival, broadcast on French television in 1977. In reverse, we have the amazingly durable Sammy Price and Art Hodes approaching the blues in their own ways, the former creating Saturday-night dance music, the latter burrowing deep inside the form; Earl Hines wandering the cosmos in his astonishing fashion, improvising on a swing standard and two “pop tunes” as he had always done. For me, the crown goes to the less-heralded Johnny Guarnieri, swinging and striding irresistibly at a variety of tempos: I wish more people paid attention to his beautiful approaches to the idiom. Listen to his WILD ABOUT HARRY and the rest. But you’ll decide; there’s no final examination in this post.
Johnny Guarnieri: BYE BYE BLUES [mislabeled as WANG WANG BLUES] – I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY (solo) / S’POSIN’ (add Larry Ridley, string bass, Ray Mosca, drums) (7.22-23.75)
Earl Hines: CANADIAN SUNSET – LULLABY OF BIRDLAND – CLOSE TO YOU (Harley White, string bass; Eddie Graham, drums)
Art Hodes (7.27.75) THE MOOCHE
Johnny Guarnieri: THE SHEIK OF ARABY / (7.24.75) CAROLINA SHOUT
This wonderful combination of like-minded creators took place on Sunday, October 17, 2021 — near the end of the magical season created by the EarRegulars at the Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.
It’s another of the improvisatory wonders that so uplifted our hearts from May – October 2021: in F, the key of love, ROSETTA (credited to Earl Hines but I believe by Henri Woode) from the EarRegulars’ All-Stars Big Band: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass; John Allred, Bill Allred, Harvey Tibbs, Joan Codina, Steve Bleifuss, trombone; Adam Moezinia, guitar.
The roadmap: ensemble with Kellso leading, John Allred, Codina, Bleifuss, Bill Allred, Tibbs, then trades in approximately the same order, Moezinia, Munisteri, then trades, Kellso, a riff from TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, O’Leary, and a Kellso-led final ensemble.
That this happened, that it happened in a city I could get to, that the musicians don’t mind my little techno-voyeurism and sharing their work with you for free. . . all magnificent gifts of these jazz Magi. Without watch chains or long hair: generously given, received with great joy.
Some artists, as they age, become more timid versions of their earlier selves. Earl Hines seemed to throw off any polite restraint and have a wonderful time splashing across the keyboard. Here is another brightly-colored solo recital from the Grande Parade du Jazz. Yellow suit and all: he was 71, afraid of nothing.
Part One: MY MONDAY DATE / YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME (captioned as CAN’T) / CAUTION BLUES / ROSETTA / Fats Waller Medley: BLACK AND BLUE – TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE – AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – SQUEEZE ME – HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (partial):
Part Two: HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (concluded) / ST. LOUIS BLUES:
Yes, Vic Dickenson. You know, the “Dixieland” trombonist known for his “wry humor.”
A small sweet surprise: Vic Dickenson, trombone; Earl Hines, piano; Harley White, string bass; Eddie Graham, drums — playing an Ellington ballad, perhaps THE Ellington ballad. So many writers made so much of Vic’s “dirty” style, his growls, that they forgot his deep heart, his deep feelings for pretty songs . . . his love of melody, of pure sounds. And although no one was wise enough to ask Vic to make a recording of Ellington and Strayhorn, he called IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD as his feature night after night when I saw him.
The first thing an attentive listener might notice is Vic’s slowing-down the tempo: he’s not about to be rushed into baroque Hines flourishes. A stately yet passionate exposition of the melody, growing more fervent in his second chorus. Then a coda-cadenza, rhapsodic and bluesy all at once. A masterpiece from the Grande Parade du Jazz at Nice, France, performed on July 20, 1975.
Hank O’Neal told me that one of his dream projects was to record Vic with strings. Such a pity that didn’t happen. Listen to I GOT IT BAD again and realize that, as a ballad player, Vic is at the level of Ben and Pres, Hodges and his dear friend Bobby Hackett. Thank goodness we have these four minutes of Vic, quietly reminding us of what he did and could do: wordlessly touch our hearts without making a fuss of doing so.
In his sixty-year performing career, Earl Hines was never characterized as a timid improviser. No, he was daring — that he had a piano in front of him rather than a machete was only the way the Fates had arranged it. Dick Wellstood called him, “Your Musical Host, serving up the hot sauce,” and that’s apt. Whether the listener perceives it as the freedom to play whatever occurred to him or a larger musical surrealism, it was never staid.
Later in life, Hines had (like his colleague Teddy Wilson) various medleys and tributes that could form a set program for an evening, but he improvised, even within set routines. The listener was in the grip of joyous turbulence, and Hines’ showmanship was always part of the show. Here, first solo and then accompanied by Harley White, string bass, and Eddie Graham, drums, he plays music composed by and associated with his friend Fats Waller. Make sure your seat belt is low and tight across your hips before we start.
The songs are BLACK AND BLUE / TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / JITTERBUG WALTZ / SQUEEZE ME / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE . . . and each of them has its possibilities examined, shaken, stirred, and offered to us in the most multi-colored way. And, yes, my mixing of metaphors is an intentional bow to the Fatha:
Hines told more than one interviewer that his flashing “trumpet style” of playing — octaves and single-note lines exploding like fireworks — was born out of necessity, his desire to be heard over the band. He kept to that path even when no band was present, and it’s dazzling.
Do you dread the start of the workweek? Or does Monday remind you of homework undone, bills unpaid, responsibilities that weigh? Take heart: JAZZ LIVES is here to help.
(Cue rousing music): the EarRegulars to the rescue! And they’re locally sourced and cage-free. Investigating all the corners of Earl Hines’ 1928 classic, they are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet (in a Bechet mood for a few seconds, sparking joy); Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. All of this took place at the Ear Out — 326 Spring Street — on June 6, 2021:
And just think, with Monday done and done, the rest of the week will soar (or totter) by. Wishing you safe passage — with the help of these joyous sounds.
I have it on good authority that the Sunday-afternoon revival-meetings will continue through October, with guests Don Mopsick, Evan Christopher, Dennis Lichtman, Bill and John Allred . . . don’t miss out!
The title refers to a swing panacea, written by Jimmy Mundy for the Earl Hines band of 1934, named for a libation that mixed rye whiskey with rock candy (sometimes with lemon and herbs) which, I am told, is making a comeback. Whitney Balliett recounted a conversation between Barney Josephson and Helen Humes in the Seventies about the potion, Helen’s drink of choice.
Here’s another version of soothing syrup with a kick, as performed by Ray Skjelbred, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums:
Bring back the Cubs, I say. The world needs their energies.
I’ve admired Colin Hancock since 2017, when I heard the first disc by the Original Cornell Syncopators — a group of wonderfully gifted college students who were majoring in everything except music — who romped through Twenties tunes with enthusiasm, vigor, and feeling. They are my living answer to “Jazz is dead.” “Young people only want to play Charlie Parker solos.” “No one under seventy really knows how to play Hot,” and other widely-circulated falsehoods.
I knew that Colin and “the Syncs,” as those in the know, call them, had recorded a new CD for Rivermont Records, its repertoire focused on music composed, played, recorded by Twenties ensembles with connections to college life. From what I know of Colin and a number of his colleagues, I expected that the results would be well-researched and historically accurate, and that I would hear music new to me, played idiomatically. I knew that the results would also be fun, spirited, enthusiastic: playful rather than white-gloves dry reverence. I knew the band would be mostly Youngbloods (with the exception of guest pianist Ed Clute and banjo-guitar master Robbert VanRenesse) that they would be ethnically diverse, with women as well as men sharing the limelight as instrumentalists as well as singers.
Yesterday I had errands to do, so I brought the disc with me to play in my car — my mobile studio — and I was astonished by how compelling it was, how fine — well beyond my already high expectations. I know it’s an oxymoron, but the words “ferocious polish” kept coming to my mind as I listened, and if you’d seen me at a red light, you’d wonder why that driver was grinning and nodding his head in time. I hadn’t read the notes (a forty-page booklet, with contributions by Julio Schwarz-Andrade, Colin, Hannah Krall, Andy Senior, Bryan Wright) and had only a vague idea of the repertoire, so in some ways I was the ideal listener, ready to hear the music without the historical apparatus and the assumptions it would necessarily impose.
I will write here what another reviewer would save as the closing “pull quote”: if you take any pleasure in the music that was American pop — not just hot jazz — before the Second World War, you will delight in COLLEGIATE.
You can hear selections from the recording, purchase a CD or download the music here. There are tastes from COLLEGIATE, MAPLE LEAF RAG, CONGAINE, ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP, CATARACT RAG BLUES, SAN, PERUNA, EVERY EVENING, SICK O’LICKS, IF I’M WITHOUT YOU — songs whose names will conjure up Twenties joys, Earl Hines, Jimmie Noone, Scott Joplin, and the ODJB . . but other songs and performances have connections to Ted Weems, Hal Kemp, Curtis Hitch, the Princeton Triangle Club Jazz Band, Jimmie Lunceford, the Cornell Collegians, Zach Whyte’s Chocolate Beau Brummels, Charlie Davis, Stu Pletcher and Carl Webster’s Yale Collegians.
What’s so good about it? The selections are beautifully played — with joy and spirit — and expansively recorded. When the whole ensemble gets going (and do they ever!) I thought I was listening to what the Paul Whiteman Orchestra must have sounded like in its heroic orchestral glory: the band and the recording have expansive life. And the solos are lyrical as well as hot, fully “in the idiom.” A good deal of this music has its roots in the Middle West rather than the South . . . so even though it may strike people who revere Louis as I do as heresy, the disc is delightful living proof that other, convincing, kinds of hot improvised music were being played and sung that owed little to Armstrongiana except for ingenuity and rhythmic enthusiasm.
I think of it as a good-natured rebuke to another stereotype, that “collegiate jazz” of the Twenties was primarily groups of young men jamming on pop tunes and originals of the day — I think of Squirrel Ashcraft and his friends, and it’s true that this CD has a goodly share of small-band hot . . . but that oversimplification is rather like saying that the Twenties = flappers, flivvers, and raccoon coats. The research that Colin and others have done results in a presentation that is imaginative and expansive: the twenty performances here are a kind of aesthetic kaleidoscope, all of it coming from similar syncopated roots but with delightfully varied results. No cliches.
And maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but the music produced by college students and graduates a hundred years later has a kind of spiritual authenticity. There is a good deal of thin, fragile “authenticity” out there among people attempting to play “vintage” music: this recording is real, both grounded and soaring.
The ensembles are wonderfully cohesive: that the players aren’t full-time musicians is something amazing. And there are vocal trios. I want nothing more. Everyone here is magna cum laude. And there was, as trumpeter-vocalist Lior Kreindler says in the video, marveling, “magic going on.”
First, some music: STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY as performed by Don Redman’s Orchestra in Geneva, Switzerland, October 27, 1946. The band is Bobby Williams, Alan Jeffreys, trumpet; Peanuts Holland, trumpet, vocal; Quentin Jackson, Jack Carman, trombone; Tyree Glenn, trombone, vibraphone; Don Redman, alto saxophone, piano, vocal, arranger; Chauncey Haughton, Pete Clarke, alto and baritone saxophone, clarinet; Don Byas, Ray Abrams, tenor saxophone; Billy Taylor, piano; Ted Sturgis, string bass; Buford Oliver, drums; Inez Cavanaugh, vocal:
The music (in this case featuring Tyree Glenn, Ted Sturgis, Don Byas, and others) is relevant to the pieces of paper below. And for those who would like to hear the whole Geneva concert — happily broadcast on Swiss radio and even more happily, preserved for us seventy-five years later! — here are all the performances:
Now I shall modulate into another key.
As a young jazz fan, I had to decide what variety of souvenir I wanted to take home from an evening’s entertainment. At one point, I fancied myself a still photographer — with a Canon AE-1 — and I would take as many shots as I’d bought rolls of 35 millimeter film. That was especially appropriate in the venues where I had learned beforehand that illicit audiotaping would get me thrown out unceremoniously (as in, “We don’t allow that here. Give it to me and please leave”).
I asked very few musicians for autographs, because I was afraid that they would say, “Was that a cassette recorder I saw in front of you? Kindly bring it here so that I can smash it with my shoe, if you don’t mind.” I also felt at the time that asking for a hero’s autograph relegated me to the status of “fan,” where conversation would have been limited. I could speak to Bennie Morton, but if I’d asked him to sign something, perhaps he would have done so, said a few polite words, and the interchange would have ended.
Eventually I also realized that approaching an artist for their autograph right before a set was ungenerous (“Let me get prepared, let me discuss the first song and the key, or let me get my charts together”) and after a set perhaps more so (“I just gave you my all for 45 minutes; I’m depleted, and want to visit the facilities”) so thrusting a tiny piece of paper in the Idol’s face was not always a kindness.
I must say, though, that in 1971 if I delayed Teddy Wilson for three minutes to ask him to sign my copy of PRES AND TEDDY and send beams of admiration at him, I feel no guilt now, and a prize of mine (thanks to the very dear Mike Burgevin) is an enthusiast’s 1933 autograph book that has a Jack Pettis signature. So I am not free from such urges.
Many people, however, perhaps with less timidity, have asked for autographs. Their ease, decades after the fact, results in slips of paper being offered for sale on eBay. One of the most rewarding sites is “jgautographs”— and here are a few items of unusual interest from a recent auction.
Don Redman’s 1946 orchestra (including Don Byas) that “went to Europe”:
and one of its trumpet stars, Peanuts Holland:
another Quentin Jackson signature (he deserves the attention):
our hero, James Rushing, Esquire:
the underrated and superb drummer Kansas Fields:
A souvenir of the 1938 Paul Whiteman orchestra, featuring Charlie Teagarden, Frank Signorelli, and George Wettling, and what looks like a Miff Mole signature squeezed in at the bottom:
Finally, a trio that I would have loved to hear — perhaps at a festival in 1978 — Jo Jones, Milt Hinton, and Ray Bryant:
Holy relics, mingling gratitude, admiration, affection, passing back and forth from artist to happy listeners.
(Postscript: none of these seem mechanical: if you haunt eBay, as I do, you can find what seem like hundreds of signatures by certain famous musicians, and I suspect they sat at a table, as do sports stars, and signed a thousand in an afternoon, which now are for sale. These seem to be signed in real life and under real circumstances, which is a very fine thing.)
In these most tempestuous times, we need some relief, and the phenomenon known as the Weatherbird Jazz Band offers it — hot jazz with passion and precision. And although I wouldn’t want to move permanently to 1928 Chicago, these musicians make the trip easy and rewarding.
The marvelous players and occasional singers are Bent Persson, trumpet or cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet or soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo or alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums. They don’t rush; they aren’t noisy; they have a deep dark authentic groove over which luminous soloists soar.
ST. JAMES INFIRMARY:
ORY’S CREOLE TROMBONE:
Over the past ten months, I’ve posted more than two dozen videos of this reassuringly groovy hot band: you can enjoy them here, here, here, here, here, and here. I don’t know what the CDC says, but if you are suffering from the news, be assured that this band is systemically healing, an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-nausea, anti-fungal, anti-whatever-the-hell-might-be-ailing-you-at-the-moment panacea, cure, and solution. Or your money back. I speak from experience: playing FUNNY FEATHERS four times in a row has made me feel better about life . . . try it!
Take a deep breath, see that your eyeglasses are clean, ask your neighbor to take a break from leaf blowing . . . and get ready to admire.
What follows is a wonderful assemblage of rewarding details that make a performance soar and shine. Everybody knows EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, ninety years old in 2014, and the song flexibly lends itself to many approaches: a slow-drag tempo with the verse (think: Blue Note Jazzmen) or delightedly skittering around the room, making all the turns (any Fifties Eddie Condon performance).
The creators here are Ray Skjelbred, piano and imagination; Kim Cusack, clarinet and vocal; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar, and this took place at the one-day jazz festival at Cline Cellars Winery in Sonoma, California.
The pleasures of this al fresco performance are double: first, the joy of hearing Ray and his Cubs do anything, and second, the little architectural details that delight and surprise, throughout. Ray says this performance takes some of its inspiration from the 1929 Earl Hines Victor recording of the tune, but it’s clear that the record is a leaping-off place rather than a model to be copied.
The DETAILS I celebrate here are Clint’s arco string bass work, Jeff’s tom-toms, Kim’s magical ability to sing and play at the same time, or nearly so, the duet scored for Cusack and Skjelbred; evocations of Jess Stacy’s 1938 “A-minor thing” even if it’s not in A-minor, and the delicious surprise of the bridge of the last chorus:
I so admire the romping large-scale scope of this performance — people confident and joyous in the sunshine — but the details that poke their heads through from below I find thrilling.
Here’s Earl Hines, playing, leading, and scat-singing:
I couldn’t close this blogpost without commenting that Benny Hill used to announce this song on his television show as EVERY BABY LOVES MY BODY, which works also.
Seasonal Hot migrations: the Weatherbird Jazz Band has just paid us another welcome visit. (I’ve posted perhaps two dozen of their performances, which are both gratifying and easy to find.)
Here are six more beautiful performances, mostly celebrating the 1925-28 sides that Louis Armstrong and friends created in Chicago, with celebratory glances at Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and the NORK.
The Weatherbirds, for these sessions, are Bent Persson, trumpet or cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet or soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo or alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums. You’ll notice that I refrain from explaining and explicating: this music needs no subtitles, just listeners open to joy.
MY MONDAY DATE:
TIN ROOF BLUES:
BLACK BOTTOM STOMP (today is Mr. Morton’s birthday):
Chu Berry And His “Little Jazz” Ensemble: Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Chu Berry, tenor saxophone; Clyde Hart, piano; Danny Barker, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums. New York, November 10, 1938.
That is a compact way to introduce you (or remind you) to the joyous mastery of Sidney Catlett — Big Sid to many — not only in his dancing solo, but in his subtly powerful propulsion throughout.
That recording is well-documented: “46 West 52” was the address of the Commodore Music Shop at the time, and the improvisation is based on SWEET GEORGIA BROWN.
The eight photographs that I share with you below came to me without equally detailed documentation. Each one is stamped “BY-LINE FEATURES” on the back, and someone had penciled in SID CATLETT. As well, pencil notations may be “cleared 46” and “tkn 45,” but I am not sure. They emerged on eBay over a month or so from a company apparently based in Iceland, and, Reader, I bought them. The company applied numbers to them, which I have followed below, although this sequence may be arbitrary. What I can presume is that a photographer caught Sidney in a solo . . . gorgeously, both his body and his facial expressions making these photographs both intimate and dramatic.
Right now, the question I am enjoying is how to hang them on my wall or walls.
And that’s not all.
In May 1948, Sidney took what I believe was his first overseas trip (Mel Powell recalled that Sid was terrified of flying) to appear at the first Nice Jazz Festival with Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars: Louis, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, and Velma Middleton — which resulted in these three pictures, recently shared with the world by Jean Labaye: they come from the archives of the Hot Club of France:
The recipient, properly, of flowers:
I presume “Hot-Revue” was a jazz magazine, thus . . .
As they say, “this just in,” thanks to my friend, the jazz scholar-guitarist (who is one-third of a new YouTube series with Loren Schoenberg and Hal Smith on the early recordings of the Benny Goodman band) Nick Rossi — from a 1942 DOWN BEAT.
“Tub thumper,” my Aunt Fanny, but it’s a lovely photograph:
Back to the ears again, for a favorite recording. James P. Johnson’s Blue Note Jazzmen: Sidney DeParis, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone; James P. Johnson, piano; Jimmy Shirley, guitar; John Simmons, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums. New York, March 4, 1944:
and this, from June 22, 1945, with the Modernists of the time, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, at Town Hall in New York City, in concert, with Al Haig, piano; Curley Russell, string bass; Symphony Sid Torin, MC. The crowd doesn’t want to let Sid go:
More than once, I’ve had a non-jazz friend ask me, “What so fascinates you about this man?” I said, “In no order. He led a Dionysiac life and died young — surrounded by friends and he had just told a good story. He made his presence known and was instantly recognizable as himself, but he selflessly made everyone sound better. He is missed.”
“Don’t forget OUR MONDAY DATE that you promised me last Tuesday.”
What the proper first word of the title is, A, OUR, or MY, depends on context: the instrumental version was labeled as we see here, and then when lyrics were added, it became OUR. MY is for possessive types.
It is, however, a durable song that can be performed to great effect no matter what day of the week it’s being played and sung. The version below happily blossomed into the air on a Thursday, December 26, 2019, at Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street in New York City.
And the noble foursome was Eddy Davis, so sorely missed, on banjo here; Conal Fowkes, string bass and vocal; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, tenor saxophone, with intermission 78s provided by Matthew (Fat Cat) Rivera.
Eddy Davis and Conal Fowkes, Cafe Bohemia, Dec. 26, 2019.
and here’s the lovely performance! — at a grownup tempo, because one never rushes through a DATE:
I wish I had a date to go to Cafe Bohemia again, and I look forward to the day when that is not just a wish. . . . and the sounds that Michael Zielenewski and Christine Santelli made possible can ring once more through the room.
A few nights ago, I was deep in pleasing archaeology-commerce (prowling through eBay) and my search for “Ben Webster” came up with this gem (at a reasonable price). The slide was attributed to Nat Singerman, although it was the work of his brother Harvey, someone I’d written about (with photographs) here in 2018.
and the more dramatic front side. From other sildes, I propose that this band, Ben’s, had Howard McGhee, Oscar Pettiford, and Jo Jones. I couldn’t identify the pianist in my 2018 post, but that is some band:
The seller, celluloidmemories, describes this and other slides here, although misrepresenting Nat as the photographer:
Just a wonderful item for the collector of jazz photography! This is a color “slide” that was owned by Nat Singerman, co-owner of the Character Arts photography studio in Cleveland in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Singerman and his co-workers produced these beautiful images and then would share them with many of their subjects. Here is an example with Art Hodes, the famed jazz pianist, looking at some of these slides through a viewer:
The slides are approximately 4” long by 1 5/8” in width and consist of two pieces of color film placed between glass slides. The result is a wonderful 3D-like view of these jazz legends. We recently acquired a large number of these largely unpublished images at auction and are now able to pass them along to the marketplace. The slides have been left “as found” and may have some dust / dirt / scratches to the glass, etc… The images are striking and very rare to find in bold color like this. For each slide, you will be able to see a close-up of the film image and a photo of the front and back the actual slide being purchased. These slides come from Nat Singerman’s personal collection and have been referenced in a NY Times Magazine piece back in 2013 and then again on Antiques Roadshow – PBS Episode #2005 – Little Rock – 2015.
So, now to the item up for bid here… This is an image of two members of Ben Webster’s Band performing at Cleveland’s Loop Lounge in September of 1955. I think the trumpeter is Howard McGhee. Don’t know who the drummer is. [Jo Jones, say I.] Wonderful image! Please see all photos. Don’t let this rare piece get away! Enjoy! Please note: All slides will be expertly packed for delivery via USPS Mail. This auction does NOT include the Art Hodes slide seen above. The word celluloidmemories will not appear on the actual slide. No copyrights or other rights of reproduction are being transferred or inferred in this auction. This item is being sold strictly as a collector’s item.
And a few other Harvey Singerman slides, with appropriate music — in this case, Art Hodes and Pee Wee Russell in 1968 (also Jimmy McPartland, Bob Cousins, Rail Wilson) on television in Chicago:
Art, Pee Wee, and a string bassist, March 1949, location not identified:
Etta Jones at Lindsay’s Sky Bar, Cleveland, May 1952. Is that Jonah Jones, and is that Earl Hines’ band of that time?
Here are Etta and Earl:
Earl Hines, May 1952, “studio”:
And one that strikes me as spectacular: Red Norvo, Charles Mingus, Tal Farlow, Chicago, July 1951:
Freddie Moore, Club Riviera, March 1949:
There are several more worth looking for or at: Flip Phillips, Oscar Peterson, J.C. Higginbotham.
But before you drift away to the eBay page or elsewhere, remember that not all the good performance photographs are taken by professionals. Jerry Kohout, brother of the Cleveland piano legend Hank Kohout, asked me recently if I would like to see candid photographs of his brother performing (probably at the Theatrical Grill) with well-known stars, and I said YES.
First, music to admire by: Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson in New York, 1957, thanks to my friend “Davey Tough”— whose channel blossoms with rarities you didn’t know existed:
Nancy Ray, vocal; Billy Butterfield, trumpet; Hank Kohout, piano.
and perhaps from the same gig, without Nancy for the moment:
Finally, heroes Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson (avec beret) with Hank:
Enjoy the sounds the pictures make: a vanished time that can be called back again.
When Don Ewell came to New York in 1981 to play at Hanratty’s, the New York Times jazz critic John S. Wilson did a piece heralding Ewell’s “classical piano,” and Don had this to say: “A lot of jazz pianists look down on the old classic way of playing. I’m not a reactionary, but I don’t want to go too far out on a limb. I like the trunk of the tree. Jazz is a people’s music and it should have at least a suggestion of melody.”
You can always hear Ewell’s love of melody in his playing; he never treats any composition he is improvising on as a collection of chord changes, which is one of the most beautiful aspects of his playing. His touch, his moderate tempos, giving each performance the feeling of a graceful steadiness, also are so rewarding.
Twice at the Manassas Jazz Festival, in 1979 and 1981, Don and Dick Wellstood — who admired each other greatly — had the chance, however briefly, to share a stage.
Because of their mutual respect, it wasn’t an exhibition: they were mature artists who knew that Faster and Louder have their place, but also have their limits. The video I will present here begins with three solo performances of “ragtime,” loosely defined, by Dick, and then goes a year forward into four duet performances. Yes, both the MC and the audience are slightly intrusive, and the pianos are not perfect, but I like to imagine that the slight informality made Don and Dick more at ease. The music is peerless, and the video presents a rare summit meeting. I thank our benefactor, Joe Shepherd, one of the music’s secular angels, for making it possible for me to share this with you.
Dick Wellstood, solo piano, December 3, 1978: FIG LEAF RAG / CAPRICE RAG / RUSSIAN RAG // Wellstood and Don Ewell, piano, December 1, 1979: ROSETTA (incomplete) / ROSETTA / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE / HANDFUL OF KEYS //
When I was doing research for this post, I found I had offered one song from the Ewell-Wellstood duets of 1981, I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU — again, thanks to Joe — here it is again. I wonder if more video of that session (six songs made it to record) exists.
“You have an awful good voice,” Johnny St. Cyr told Mrs. Christian, “Why don’t you do something with that voice?”
Mrs. Christian said, “Why don’t you help me do something with it?” and Johnny replied, “Well, I will. I’ll see what I can do.”
And here’s what happened:
A few days ago, the fine reedman John Clark of the Wolverine Jazz Band sent me an information-present that I will share with you.
Eight years ago, I published a post about Lillie Delk Christian, who recorded sixteen sides with the finest musicians on the planet (Armstrong, Hines, Noone), and then seemed to vanish — here. I was asking questions, and my friend, scholar-drummer Hal Smith, provided answers; four days later I had more answers and photographs, thanks to the splendid writer-researcher Mark Miller and Dan Morgenstern, who actually met Lillie in the 1960s: read here.
But John has topped them all by pointing out an audio interview Mrs. Christian gave on April 25, 1961. You can listen to it just below, but if you haven’t got sixty-four minutes to spare, I can offer some highlights. Unfortunately, the interviewer stops the flow of Mrs. Christian’s story to deal with a particular hobby-horse. Pro tip: stay quiet or say “And then what happened?” rather than intruding. Alas. I believe the interviewer may be Samuel Charters; the later male voice is surely Mr. Christian, Charles, no relation to the guitarist.
The conversation takes place in the Christian house, their residence for twenty-seven years, presumably not with the same barking dog nearby. Mrs. Christian was born in Mobile, Alabama, and chooses not to tell her birth year; the Delk family moved to Chicago in 1915.
Her singing career started with the OKeh recordings. Her friend, Johnny St. Cyr, heard her when they were all living at 3938 Indiana Avenue, singing around the house — without training, but it “went over all right.” She seems to have had no public career between 1929 and 1934, and we do not find out whether she retreated from show business or that gigs dried up during the hard times of the Depression, but mentions that she toured in the summer of 1935 with Carroll Dickerson’s Orchestra and had an engagement in a club in Stockton, California.
But she cannot remember every detail the interviewer wants to know, although she recalls that she and her husband ran a “tea-house” restaurant around the corner, with the piano played by Ellington and other famous musicians.
Eventually, she sang at the Club De Lisa with reedman Dalbert Bright, drummer Jimmy Hoskins and guitarist Ike Perkins, perhaps trumpeter Guy Kelly, then Red Saunders led the band. Another gig was at the Cotton Club, the band possibly led by Thamon Hayes. A later stint at the Club De Lisa was with Eddie Cole (without brother Nat) and then Horace Henderson, at a club with a white orchestra in Springfield, Ohio — the Continental Club, where Lillie’s accompanist was pianist Marlow Nichols. (All spelling errors are my fault.)
It puzzles me that the interviewer didn’t ask Mrs. Christian, “Whose idea was it for Louis to scat on TOO BUSY?” “What was it like to record for OKeh?” At least we get a few words about Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon, “in his highest bloom” in the Thirties.
“When my kind of singing came out, it was kind of unusual. And the people seemed to like it.”
Mrs. Christian sounds as if she would be willing to be recorded again, but only as part of her church choir. And for those who think of her voice as being brash and brightly-colored, it is delightful to hear her speaking voice: sweet, moderated, gently nuanced.
A glimpse, occasionally frustrating, into the world of someone legendary to us.
Maybe everyone has already repented of their Marie Kondo-obsession (I hope you didn’t throw out something or someone you now miss terribly) but I thought of her criterion for keeping an object: did it “spark joy” or not? The music that follows does for me.
If people recognize Foresythe at all, it might be from his compositions recorded by others — SERENADE TO A WEALTHY WIDOW by Fats Waller, DEEP FOREST by Earl Hines, less so for his own orchestral work which looks forward to the Alec Wilder Octet and perhaps backwards to Spike Hughes’ 1933 compositions. He was a truly fascinating individual, as I’ve learned from Terry Brown’s splendid biographical essay, the first part of which is published here. I haven’t been able to find the second part online.
Some months ago, I saw this intriguing 78 rpm disc for sale on a record colletors’ site — at a pleasingly affordable price — and holding to the philosophical principle of “What could possibly go wrong?” I bought it, played it, and was instantly smitten.
I’d heard and seen the New York Jazz Repertory Company in 1974 and onwards reproduce Louis’ solos scored by Dick Hyman for three trumpets; Earl Hines had recorded BEAU KOO JACK in 1929, and there are numerous examples of homages to famous solos — particularly Bix’s — recorded years later, but this is a wonderfully unusual homage — six reeds, three rhythm, playing every note of Louis’s solo on CHINATOWN (personnel thanks to Gary Turetsky): REGINALD FORESYTHE and His Orchestra: Cyril Clarke, Dick Savage (cl), Jimmy Watson, Harry Carr (as), Eddie Farge (ts), J. L. Brenchley (bsn), Reginald Foresythe (p, a), Don Stuteley (b), Jack Simpson (dr). London 19 July 1935:
Jon De Lucia was also taken with this record, and has promised to write it out for saxophone ensemble: I look forward to the day when I can hear it live. Until then, spin this more than once and enjoy the joy-sparks: more fun than bare shelves and empty clothes-hangers, no?
Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City
Eddy Davis — banjo, vocals, compositions — is a glorious eccentric I’ve been admiring for fifteen years in New York. And he has a long history in Chicago, playing with the greats of previous generations, including Albert Wynn, Bob Shoffner, and Franz Jackson, among others. Here are four selections from a beautiful evening with the Cafe Bohemia Jazz Quartet: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Conal Fowkes, string bass / vocal — at the end of last year.
Eddy’s had some health difficulties recently, so I wanted to use the blog as a spiritual telephone wire to send him the best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery, so he can come back to startle and delight us soon. And just generally, may we all be safe from harm. Thanks to Eddy’s friends Conal Fowkes and Debbie Kennedy.
TWO DEUCES / “BABY, YOU’RE THE BEST”:
STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, with Miss Lil’s major seventh:
CANAL STREET BLUES, some New Orleans jazz that didn’t come from a book: