Tag Archives: Earl McKee

REMIX WELL! (Part Two): GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS at SWING REMIX (April 13, 2019)

Here’s the second part of a glorious evening of music and dance at Swing Remix, music provided and created by Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers — who were, for this gig, expanded: Gordon, trumpet, arrangements, compositions; Joe McDonough, trombone; Ricky Alexander, Matt Koza, reeds; Nick Russo, guitar and banjo; Rob Adkins, string bass; Rob Garcia, drums.  (R1 was there, stepping, twirling, and dipping, although my camera did not catch her in flight.)  It added up to great dance music, delightful small-band jazz, splendidly played, with inventive arrangements that make familiar songs seem new.

Here’s Part One.

Bechet’s SI TU VOIS MA MERE, featuring Matt Koza, in honor of Earl McKee:

From an elegy to an original by Gordon, dedicated to a wayward feline:

A classic from the time when people still carried nickels for the pay phone:

The lovely Harry Ruby – Rube Bloom paean to simplicity:

A nocturnal horror in Swing:

Let’s!

and an encore, from GUYS AND DOLLS:

May your happiness increase!

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“CALIFORNIA BLUES” and OTHER PLEASURES: THE HIGH SIERRA JAZZ BAND at MONTEREY (March 8, 2014)

The High Sierra Jazz Band is the only musical aggregation able — or willing — to evoke Joe Oliver, Jimmie Rodgers, Paul Whiteman, and Peter Lorre in the space of a single set, as they do here. That versatility counts for a good deal with me. They also regularly honor Louis, Bix, Bechet, and Jelly Roll.

If you’d like an embodiment of true jazz loyalty, you have only to attend a High Sierra set where you can hear fans gently debating with each other about whose love for the band is stronger, deeper, and more durable.  “Well, when I first saw them in 1978,” begins one, and the person in the next seat says, “We’ve known Pieter long before that,” at which point I pretend to be adjusting the lighting on my camera in case the debate escalates.  But you get the idea.  

Here’s a set recorded on March 9, 2014, at JazzAge Monterey’s Jazz Bash by the Bay — the noble perpetrators being Pieter Meijers, leader, clarinet, soprano saxophone; Howard Miyata, trombone, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Stan Huddleston, banjo; Earl McKee, sousaphone, vocal; Bruce Huddleston, piano; Charlie Castro, drums. 

In honor of the Creole Jazz Band and its many descendents, MABEL’S DREAM:

For M. Morton, WININ’ BOY BLUES:

CALIFORNIA BLUES, a soulful melding of two Jimmie Rodgers’ blue yodels (numbers 4 and 9) with Marc and Earl honoring not only the Singing Brakeman but his colleague Louis:

More for Louis, a three-trumpet version of POTATO HEAD BLUES, with the famous solo transcribed for Dick Hyman’s New York Jazz Repertory Concert, where the trumpets were originally Pee Wee Erwin, Joe Newman, and Jimmy Maxwell:

Tell the children to be good.  Here comes THE YAMA YAMA MAN (with the verse):

Back to M. Morton for the KANSAS CITY STOMPS:

And a Bixian duo, withLOUISIANA:

And a concluding FROM MONDAY ON:

Hot and expert.

May your happiness increase!

 

THE BOYS AND THE BAND: JUSTIN and BRANDON AU VISIT HIGH SIERRA (Sacramento Music Festival, May 27, 2012)

Who says that hot jazz is solely the purview of a generation of elder statesmen?  Certainly not the young brassmen Justin (trumpet) and Brandon Au (trombone), who paid a social call to the High Sierra Jazz Band at the Sacramento Music Festival on May 27, 2012.

Justin and Brandon joined leader / reedman Pieter Meijers, their Uncle How (Howard Miyata on trombone and vocal), Bryan Shaw on trumpet, Stan Huddleston on banjo, Bruce Huddleston on piano, Earl McKee on sousaphone and vocals, and Charlie Castro, drums — for a program of hot cross-generational jazz and hijinks.

The HSJB began with a nineteenth-century favorite, sung with great honest feeling by Earl, THE OLD SPINNING WHEEL:

Then, one of the many animal-themed compositions dear to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and, a bit later, Bix Beiderbecke, OSTRICH WALK:

Here, after Pieter introduces the boys, everyone creates a wonderful street-parade CANAL STREET BLUES:

Justin, Brandon (vocal), and Pieter swing out on NAGASAKI:

And, as an aside, here is what I believe to be the performance — captured for posterity — that Peter refers to.  A slippery composition, CAPITOL-BOUND, performed at the Pismo Jazz Jubilee by the Sea — October 28, 2011 — by Justin, Brandon, Gordon, Uncle How, Danny Coots, and Katie Cavera:

One of the High Sierra’s patented specialties, FROM MONDAY ON, with a vocal by Earl and a five-horn recreation of Bix’s solos at the end:

And, to close, a hot blues for Louis, MAHOGANY HALL STOMP:

Age doesn’t matter in jazz if the spirit is right.

May your happiness increase.

DAWN LAMBETH SWINGS SWEETLY! (Jazz Bash by the Bay, Monterey 2012)

Dawn Lambeth sings melodically, without strain, floating easily.  She doesn’t attempt to make each song into a deep dramatic statement; she doesn’t turn the lyrics into scat excursions; she honors the tune rather than demolishing it . . . her warm voice is a pleasure, never monochromatic but subtly full of colors and shadings.

She is serious and yearning on I COVER THE WATERFRONT here (resisting the temptation to copy Billie Holiday’s patented gestures), chipper and amused on DON’T FENCE ME IN . . . whatever she sings, she illuminates. Dawn is also a rare bird, someone hardly over-publicized, although she is well-loved in California . . . but she is worth following, as these videos will prove.  I have heard murmurings of a new DVD where she appears with the superb pianist Chris Dawson . . . I will tell you more when I know it.

Both of these performances come from the March 2012 Jazz Bash by the Bay / Dixieland Monterey.

The first, I COVER THE WATERFRONT, finds her with her friends the Reynolds Brothers: Marc Caparone, cornet; John Reynolds, guitar; Ralf Reynolds, washboard; Katie Cavera, string bass:

Delicacy, not melodrama characterizes her approach to that song — a winning naturalness.

And she’s just as comfortable with the broader sound and the broader comedy of the High Sierra Jazz Band accompanying her on DON’T FENCE ME IN.  The High Sierras — for this occasion — are Pieter Meijers, reeds; Bryan Shaw and Marc Caparone, cornets; Howard Miyata, trombone; Stan Huddleston, banjo; Charlie Castro, drums; Earl McKee, sousaphone; Bruce Huddleston, piano:

Sweet swing with expert rhythmic grace, heart, and wit . . .

May your happiness increase.

SCALING MOUNTAINS AT MONTEREY 2012 with the HIGH SIERRA JAZZ BAND and MARC CAPARONE (March 2, 2012)

No, no one burst into CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN, and Julie Andrews was otherwise engaged.  But the High Sierra Jazz Band — here with guest hero Marc Caparone added to an already hot front line — knows how to get to the top and stay there.  I present (for your listening, dining, and dancing pleasure) an early set from the 2012 Dixieland Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay — with leader and raconteur Pieter Meijers on reeds and wry commentary; Charlie Castro, drums; Earl McKee, sousaphone and vocals; Stan Huddleston, banjo; Bruce Huddleston, piano; Howard Miyata (“the happiest man in Dixieland,” but why stop there?) on trombone, misc. brass, and vocal; and the electrifying two-cornet team of Bryan Shaw and Marc.

They began with the Creole Jazz Band’s irresistible MABEL’S DREAM.  Pieter has obviously told many audiences a long wooly tale about who Mabel was and what she dreamed about (thrilling but somehow dubious).  Does anyone know the real story?  Was Mabel someone’s girlfriend, and did she dream lucky?  Do tell:

Earl McKee takes us under her wing — let’s go DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN:

Ah, that Boy is here again — and he has something to tell us named the WININ’ BOY BLUES:

Mister Morton, take the stand!  KANSAS CITY STOMPS:

When Sidney Bechet and Pieter book the tour, PASSPORT TO PARADISE is not merely an extravagant figure of speech:

Oh, Mister Jelly!  “Get off the sidewalk, can’t you?”  SIDEWALK BLUES:

They concluded their set with Fats Waller’s composed-in-a-taxicab-on-the-way-to-the-recording-studio-and-possibly-misidentified-on-the-label MINOR DRAG.  Another thing we have Eddie Condon to thank for.  (Should this song have been issued as HARLEM FUSS?  One never knows.  Do one?):

Good, good, good — hot and powerful, at the very peak.

May your happiness increase.

THE HIGH SIERRA JAZZ BAND with MARC CAPARONE at DIXIELAND MONTEREY (March 5, 2011)

First off: the High Sierra Jazz Band is color-coordinated.  They have red shirts for one gig, teal (or is it mint green?) for another.  Very snappy.  Nattily dressed.  It also makes it easy to identify the guest star, who has different plumage.  In these five performances from Dixieland Monterey 2011, that stellar personage was our friend, cornetist Marc Caparone, standing next to Bryan Shaw to give the music a wonderful Louis (Armstrong) and Papa Joe (Oliver) flavor.

The High Sierra Jazz Band is led by reedman Pieter Meijers — very articulate and witty, even when he is measuring out the amount of applause he expects for the next song and threatening the audience (gently) that he will speak more if the applause is inadequate.  The front line is filled out by the beaming Howard Miyata on trombone, euphonium, and vocals.  Clint Baker calls Howard “the happiest man in Dixieland” and that might be an understatement or it might unintentionally restrict Howard’s range: he glows like the sun.  The rhythm section is a fraternal affair, with Bruce Huddleson on piano and Stan Huddleston on banjo and guitar.  Then there’s the singing tubaist Earl McKee and drummer Charlie Castro.

All aboard!

This session began with a nicely rocking ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND, in what I think of as Joe-and-Bessie Smith tempo (and it is one of the lesser-known Louis Deccas):

Then, after an elaborately funny Pieter Meijers shaggy-dog-in-Dixieland announcement, we had FIDGETY FEET:

Howard came into his own with a soulful A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON: another Louis-homage, full of sweet feeling:

We never did find out Pieter’s explanation of what Mabel was dreaming of, but the band played MABEL’S DREAM (with its down-home hymnlike trio strain) with mutes in, passions to the forefront:

Finally, a romping CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME:

They do take the cake, don’t they?  And Marc Caparone is the fellow who’s not wearing a red shirt.  All hail the rest of the band, but the interplay between Bryan and Marc brings tears to my eyes.  I don’t know which of them is Little Louis and which is Papa Joe (my guess is that the roles, after nearly ninety years, have fused into one Mobius strip of hot cornet / trumpet) but they sound lovely!

SWING OUT TO GENEROSITY: CLICK HERE TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE MUSICIANS YOU SEE IN THESE VIDEOS (ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM):

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AN OSCAR FOR HOWARD!

I nominate Howard Miyata for an Academy Award: BEST ACTOR IN A PERFORMANCE BY A JAZZ BAND.  Here’s why:  

Rambling around YouTube, I saw a clip posted by Tom Warner (his channel is “tdub1941”) of the High Sierra Jazz Band performing at the 17th Annual Glacier Bay Jazz Stampede in Kalispell, Montata, earlier this month.  The band is led by reedman Pieter Meijers.  Its other members in this clip are Bruce Huddleston, piano; my man Marc Caparone, trumpet; Howard Miyata, trombone / vocal; Charlie Castro, drums; Stan Huddleston, banjo; Earl McKee, sousaphone.

This would have been enticement enough. 

But then I saw the clip was of THE YAMA YAMA MAN with Howard Miyata singing.  I am very fond of that song for purely sentimental reasons: when I was young, perhaps still in the single digits, Ray Nolan, a friend of my father’s used to sing it (in part) and I was enraptured.*  Both my father and Ray are gone now, and the sound of this song is one of the many comforting memories of my childhood. 

And anything that features Howard Miyata is, as they used to say, just my dish.  We’ve never met, but he has a special place in my heart as “Uncle Howie” to Gordon, Justin, and Brandon Au — one of the true up-and-coming dynasties of jazz.  I first saw Howard as part of a High Sierra brass trio playing POTATO HEAD BLUES on cornets with unforgettable accuracy and power.

So be brave and watch this performance:

Even though the Yama Yama Man might be hiding behind the armoire, just tell him that you’re a friend of Uncle Howie’s and everything will be fine. 

P.S.  An easy question: just which irreplaceable vocalist and trumpet player, initials L. A., does Howard remind you of?  Hilariously from the heart!  

*Off the track of jazz: Ray also sang something which was presumably a Civil War song (!) although he must have heard it from his grandfather or father.  The singer is presumably a young man going off to fight, and what I remember of the lyrics are, “Good-bye, Ma / Good-bye, Pa / Good-bye, mule with the old hee-haw / I may not know what this war’s about / But you bet by gosh that I’ll sure find out.”  Can any reader identify this?