Tag Archives: Elin Smith

THEMES AND VARIATIONS: THE 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Now that I have posted about eighty video performances here — thanks to Flemming Thorbye, Elin Smith, Jonathan David Holmes, and Michael Stevens — I can write a few lines about the Classic Jazz Party in general, and why it was such a remarkable experience.

It wasn’t a formal occasion by any means — in fact, it was distinguished by the friendly, comfortable interplay between musicians and listeners, sitting down to breakfast with one another.  But the CJP was the result of a good deal of behind-the-scenes planning that blossomed forth in music.

All jazz parties and festivals require a great deal of work that the person listening to the bands is rarely aware of — planning that begins more than a year in advance and continues well after the particular party is over: lining up musicians, agreeing with them on times and dates and payment, making sure that they can get to the party and have suitable accomodations, taking care of last-minute crises and more.  When you see the person in charge of one of these events and wonder why (s)he has no time to stop and chat, to say nothing of sitting down for a meal or a set of music, these are some of the reasons.

But the CJP has a thematic underpinning — which is to say Mike Durham likes jam sessions, and one happened each night in the Victory Pub, but he has a deep emotional commitment to the arching history of jazz and an equal desire to see that no one is forgotten.  So rather than grouping six or seven able players and singers on the stand with no organizing principle in mind (thus, the blues in Bb, RHYTHM changes, and a series of solo features), Mike Durham has created — with the help of his equally enthusiastic and scholarly players — a series of small thematic concert tributes.

I will only list the names so that you can understand the scope of the CJP: Clarence Williams, Bix Beiderbecke, novelty piano, Jelly Roll Morton, Bennie Moten, territory bands, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelly, Lionel Hampton, Adrian Rollini, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Annette Hanshaw, naughty songs, multi-lingual pop songs, Chicago reedmen, Billie Holiday, percussion, the ukulele, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, King Oliver, stride piano, the tenor saxophone, Bessie Smith, the Rhythmic Eight, John Kirby, Jabbo Smith, Valaida Snow, the Rhythmakers.

You can thus understand why the weekend was both great fun and educational without ever being academic or pedantic.  An immersion in living jazz history — reaching back one hundred years but so firmly grounded in the present moment — loving evocations without any hint of the museum about them.

And there are more sets like those being planned for 2012.

Here is the estimable Flemming Thorbye’s tribute to the whole weekend — his evocative still photographs capturing aspects of thirty-three varied sets — with an Ellingtonian background recorded on the spot.  And don’t give up before it’s through, because Flemming has a delicious surprise at the end: a segment of the Friday night jam session in the Victory Pub, with Andy Schumm leading the troops ably through CRAZY RHYTHM, with Ms. Calzaretta shaking that thing to the beat:

Learn more about the delights in store this year here.

“JUST IMAGINE”: ANDY SCHUMM and JOSH DUFFEE PLAY BIX BEIDERBECKE at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye)

Just imagine — more beautiful performances of music related to the last years of Bix Beiderbecke’s short life — created on November 6, 2011, at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by Andy Schumm, cornet; Josh Duffee, drums; Norman Field, reeds; David Sager, trombone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo and guitar.

REACHING FOR SOMEONE (AND NOT FINDING ANYONE THERE) (Elin):

JUST IMAGINE (Thorbye) a piano solo by Andy that begins meditatively and then heats up:

DEEP DOWN SOUTH (Elin):

I’LL BE A FRIEND “WITH PLEASURE” (Elin):

“With pleasure,” indeed.

CECILE McLORIN SALVANT SALUTES BESSIE SMITH and VALAIDA SNOW at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye)

The highly dramatic young singer Cecile McLorin Salvant was a hit at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and she did not disappoint this year.  It’s clear that she has immersed herself in the repertoire she chooses, and she is a high-energy theatrical performer of the old school, someone who throws herself into each song.

In her tribute to Bessie Smith, Cecile was aided by “Bent’s Seven Blue Babies,” Bent Persson, cornet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Paul Munnery, trombone; Mauro Porro, piano; Philippe Guignier, banjo; Christian Lefevre, tuba; Nick Ward, drums.

ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND (Elin):

NOBODY IN TOWN CAN BAKE A SWEET JELLY ROLL LIKE MINE (Thorbye):

YOU’VE GOT TO GIVE ME SOME (Elin): duet between Cecile and Philippe . . . whatever can the lyrics can be talking about?

YOU OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED (Elin):

OH, DADDY (Elin):

For her tribute to Valaida Snow, Cecile was joined by Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, Mauro Porro, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen,trombone; Paul Asaro, piano; Roly Veitch, banjo and guitar; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

SWEET HEARTACHE (Thorbye):

NAGASAKI (Thorbye):

There’s a good deal more from Cecile to be found on YouTube: those intoxicated by her approach to the music will find much to enthrall them!  Thanks as always to the generous Flemming Thorbye (“thorbye”) and Elin Smith (“elinshouse”) whose videos can be enjoyed on YouTube and their own sites: http://www.thorbye.net., and http://www.elinshouse.wordpress.com.

“POTATO HEAD BLUES”: BENT PERSSON’S HOT SEVEN at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye)

That’s Bent on trumpet and Hot Choruses; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet; Keith Nichols, piano; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone; Keith Stephen,banjo; Nick Ward, drums.  All of this music was originally created and recorded in 1927 Chicago — as Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven.

“Hot Choruses” might require a few lines of explanation. In that year, with Louis’s fame growing, he was asked to record a series of “hot choruses” and “breaks” that other trumpeters might — with practice — incorporate into their performances.  The recordings have never been found, but the books still exist, and Bent made a deep and lengthy study of them . . . the results exist on four records or three CDs on the Kenneth label — rewarding and inventive music.  On the last two songs here, Bent incorporates a Hot Chorus — especially revealing in BLACK BOTTOM STOMP, a Morton composition Louis never recorded on his own.

ALLIGATOR CRAWL (Thorbye):

POTATO HEAD BLUES (Elin):

WEARY BLUES (Thorbye): with a Hot Chorus

BLACK BOTTOM STOMP (Thorbye): with a Hot Chorus

Once again, thanks to the generous Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith for these videos: see more at “elinshouse” and “thorbye” on YouTube!

TWO VIEWS OF KANSAS CITY JAZZ: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith)

Often we associate “Kansas City jazz” with the free-flowing style of the middle Thirties.  But there was a regional style even before John Hammond heard the Basie band at the Reno Club on his car radio.

Here are two examples, brought to life at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by pianist /arranger Keith Nichols and his Blue Devils — a band consisting of  Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, trumpets; Steve Andrews, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Richard Pite, string bass; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Nick Ward, drums.  You might also catch a glimpse of dancing couples — one unidentified and vigorous; the other Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro, off to the right.

Before there was Basie, there was Moten — in whose band Basie was the second pianist.  Here’s a sample of what Bennie Moten’s band was recording in 1925, KATER STREET RAG, with solos by Jean-Francois Bonnel (baritone), Alistair Allan, Bent Persson, and Rico Tomasso:

Four years later, there was Walter Page’s Blue Devils, here embodied in BLUE DEVIL BLUES, with solos by Bent, Steve Andrews (clarinet), and Andy Woon:

There’s no sense in talking about “progress” in art, otherwise art criticism becomes a staged wrestling match, Stravinsky vs. Mozart, and both performances here make perfect aesthetic sense.  But in four years the rhythmic feel had certainly changed. . . . moving towards the Basie band at the Famous Door and onwards.

THAT RHYTHM MAN: BENT PERSSON PLAYS LOUIS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

Even though I think he finds it mildly embarrassing, I hold the cornetist / trumpeter / bandleader / jazz scholar / occasional singer Bent Persson in awe.  He isn’t the only brassman who has studied and emulated Louis Armstrong — but when he plays, young and middle-period Louis comes alive, gloriously.

In this set at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (on Friday, November 4) he and an all-star band evoked some music from 1929, when Louis was often accompanied by the Carroll Dickerson and Luis Russell — a period of his career that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

The band had Bent, Andy Schumm, and Michel Bastide on trumpets; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Michel Bescont, Matthias Seuffert, and Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Seck, piano; Mike Piggott, violin; Jean-Pierre Dubois, guitar; Richard Pite, sousaphone and string bass; Debbie Arthurs, drums; vocals by Rico, Cecile McLaurin Salvant, and Michel Bastide.

SYMPHONIC RAPS is more good-natured than symphonic, although it occasionally gives the impression of a Hot Seven line scored for large orchestra. I admire the way the sections play off each other at the start, then the exchanges between Seck’s properly skittering Hines-styled piano and the band.  Because this band isn’t constrained by the recording studio, Bent opened up the arrangement for a few more solos — the first being the nimble Matthias on alto, then an off-camera Kristoffer on trombone (catch Debbie Arthurs rocking the proceedings all through this), before he comes on with some organic, locally sourced Louis. Bent knows Louis so well that he seems to move around freely in the great man’s imagination, leaving the impression of a newly-discovered alternate take, say, on Argentinian Odeon — before Debbie wraps this package up neatly with comments on the temple blocks:

The Waller-Razaf lament about what they now call “colorism,” BLACK AND BLUE, remains deeply moving.  Everything here is in place, with the comfortable feeling of musicians who know the original so well that they can bring to it their own individualities — Bent, Kristoffer, that reed section, and an understated but impassioned vocal from Rico that summons up the Master, leading to an early-Thirties Hawkins interlude from Bascont, and Bent rising above the band and Debbie’s most empathic drumming:

Another Waller-Razaf song, THAT RHYTHM MAN, its basic conceit going back to Renaissance poetry, that the whole world is an orchestra, is clearly a dance number.  The band swings out from the start, with Kristoffer doing his special J.C. Higginbotham magic on the bridge. Michel Bastide shows that rhythm can triumph over every obstacle, even a recalcitrant microphone; he’s followed by rocking solos from Kristoffer, Bascont, Bent, and Matthias, before the whole rollicking performance winds down.  I wonder how many jazz players and singers across the country had this black-label OKeh in their collection, a record worn to a low gravy:

The most famous of the Waller-Razaf trilogy is of course AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (Elin) and this version follows the less well-known Seger Ellis small band recording, which featured Joe Venuti, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Eddie Lang, Arthur Schutt, and Stan King — here the compelling Cecile McLorin Salvant stands in for Ellis, to great effect:

DALLAS BLUES (Thorbye) shows the band ready to swing — propelled by Debbie and her colleagues — even before Kristoffer and Richard play the blues and Bent sings them.  An inspired Kristoffer returns for a substantial outing and wows both the crowd and the band, before the trick ending that catches almost everyone by surprise:

I AIN’T GOT NOBODY (Thorbye) is given a performance at odds with the melancholy lyrics. Rocking interludes for the band, Rico, Mauro Porro and his metal clarinet, and Bent, suggest that everyone here indeed has somebody:

THANKS A MILLION (Elin), with both Rico and Bent invoking and evoking Louis, makes me feel so grateful for this set of music.

Thanks, once again, to Flemming Thorbye — check out his treasures   here

and Elin Smith, whom you can visit here

“DEAR BIX”: ANDY SCHUMM and his GANG at WHITLEY BAY, November 4, 2011 (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

Young Mr. Schumm may be one of the most avidly-recorded musicians in jazz, but he deserves every pixel and gigabyte for his clarion playing and easy, thoughtful leadership (watch how casually and effectively he shapes a performance onstage).

Here Andy and his most excellent colleagues create a swinging homage to that other young man from Davenport, Iowa.  All this took place just after lunch on the first day of the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

Once again I am relying on the kindness of video-friends for this material: the very generous Elin Smith and the globe-trotting Flemming Thorbye.

Flemming and I knew each other through YouTube and through email, but this was our first encounter in person: he’s just as amiable live as he is in cyberspace, no small accomplishment.  You can see much more of his jazz — including one of the best bands I know, the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys, here.

The Gang features Andy on cornet,with Norman Field, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Martin Wheatley, banjo and guitar; Paul Asaro, piano; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.  I mean no disrespect to the players, now dead, whose voices we hear on the OKehs, Victors, and Columbias — but this Gang swings along with a grace that comes from their current vantage point on the music they inhabit.

An easy-rocking SUNDAY (Elin) begins with an instant improvisation on the theme by Norman on C-melody, then everyone gets a taste: admire Martin Wheatley’s solo and backing to Frans, then the young daredevil Kristoffer:

CLARINET MARMALADE (Thorbye) starts hot and doesn’t let up — enjoy Norman’s ruminative second chorus and Paul Asaro’s James P. Johnson flourishes. (A digression: the balding fellow with a video camera at the bottom right is your humble correspondent — watching yourself from the back is an odd experience. Memo to self in 2012: try to sit still):

BALTIMORE (Thorbye) is another of those endearing Twenties songs named for a dance craze that might never have existed.  Or have we explored this question already?  The music, the music transcends. Praise to the Master, Frans Sjostrom, and his colleagues in the back row:

For those who like exercises in comparative viewing, here’s Elin’s take on BALTIMORE:

And — thanks to that Queen of the Dance, Bridget Calzaretta, here’s a link to silent footage of happy Brits doing the BALTIMORE, synchronized to a Fred Rich record of the song:

Hoagy Carmichael’s FREE WHEELING, later RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (Thorbye) is taken at just the right tempo — with the ghosts of Jelly Roll Morton and Jack Teagarden visiting for brief interludes.  Those in the know will catch and laugh at Andy’s editorial commentary during the breaks in the final chorus:

SINGIN’ THE BLUES was one of the Bix records that caught and held me four decades ago — this version has much of the same balance between forward propulsion and sweet musing.  Thanks to Elin:

This version of YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME (Elin) doesn’t have Bing, but Andy and Norman embark on a chase chorus that’s original but won’t scare the children:

THAT’S MY WEAKNESS NOW (Thorbye) is — if we’re going to be candid — a bouncy Twenties tune without much scope.  But, once heard, I can’t get it out of my system.  This version stuck, too — pay close attention to Josh, pushing the band along — not that these players need pushing!:

LOUISIANA (Elin) unites Bix, Bing, and Basie –a wholly trinity of creative music:

More to come!

HOT ANTIC JAZZ BAND at WHITLEY BAY 2011 (thanks to Elin Smith)

I met Elin Smith and her husband Ron at the first Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival I attended in 2009.  Elin is very sociable, so when we noticed we both had video cameras and tripods, and were looking for clear sight lines, we began to talk and very quickly became friends.  And we’ve continued our friendship ever since.  Because of my own video debacle of 2011, I am indebted to Elin and Flemming Thorbye for the videos of Whitley Bay you will see in the next few postings.

Aside from being a deep-dyed videographer and jazz enthusiast, Elin also has her own blog — a wide-ranging one, called elinshouse  — her own amused perceptions of the world and a steady hand on the camera with which she records them.  Thanks, Elin!

The first set of the weekend belonged to the greatly animated Hot Antic Jazz Band, led by cornetist / vocalist / raconteur Michel Bastide, with a guest appearance by trumpeter / vocalist / Festival Director Mike Durham, as well as the young Norwegian trombonist Kristoffer Kompen; Michel Bascont, clarinet; Martin Seck, piano; J-P Dubois.banjo; Bernard Antherieu, tuba; Raymond Grasier, washboard.  The Hot Antics kicked things off most enthusiastically with a program of music associated with Clarence Williams.

SPANISH SHAWL:

SWEET EMMALINA:

CANDY LIPS:

WILDFLOWER RAG (a solo for pianist Martin Seck):

WHAT MAKES ME LOVE YOU SO?:

MY GAL SAL:

More to come!

Tickets for the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party are going fast: click here for details.  Here’s the line-up!

Duke Heitger (USA), Spats Langham (UK), Bent Persson (Sweden), Keith Nichols (UK), Matthias Seuffert Germany), Cecile McLorin Salvant (USA), Michael McQuaid (Australia), Caroline Irwin (UK), Stéphane Gillot (France), Emma Fisk (UK), René Hagmann (Switzerland), Martin Litton (UK), Andy Schumm USA), Rico Tomasso (UK), Jean-François Bonnel (France), Norman Field (UK), Thomas Winteler (Switzerland), Malcolm Sked (UK), Michel Bescont (France), Alistair Allan (UK), Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Richard Pite (UK), Martin Seck (Germany), Jens Lindgren (Sweden), Martin Wheatley (UK), Josh Duffee (USA), Keith Stephen (UK), Manu Hagmann (Switzerland), Phil Rutherford (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Frans Sjöström (Sweden), Nick Ward (UK) – and Mike Durham (West Jesmond).

Mike Durham says, “All concerts will take place in the four-star Village Hotel’s Inspiration Suite, with cabaret seating: a new band or solo artist brought to you at the comfort of your table every 60 minutes (or less!) from midday to midnight (with a break for dinner). All properly themed – no disorganised “let’s just get together and blow” sessions….. except for the late-night jam-session in the hotel’s Victory Pub.”

LOST AND FOUND (featuring GRAVITY, HUBRIS, and GENEROSITY)

A long narrative follows, but with a point — for patient readers.

I attended two jubilant jazz parties in November 2011: the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party in England; the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Fest.  Both made me feel like a mountain goat with a video camera, leaping from one figurative musical peak to the next.  I came home from each with a small notebook, its pages filled with personnel and song titles, exclamation points and check marks.  I had recorded twenty-six sets at Whitley Bay, twenty at San Diego.  Since my camera in each case would not hold all the data I was gathering, I carefully transferred it to an external hard drive, one guaranteed for durability.  When I resumed ordinary life in December, that Western Digital drive had nearly four hundred videos on it, which I gazed upon in the same way the miser leers at his treasure in cartoons.  I knew that, come the end of the semester, I would begin to transfer the best performances for my readers.  Could any mishap befall this hoard of gigabytes?  Not to me, I assured myself.  I’m careful.  I know what I’m doing!

Readers even faintly aware of Greek tragedy will be aware of the concept of hubris, or pride unsupported by evidence. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Readers should know that I was not the lone videographer at these two festivals.  At Whitley Bay, my friendly colleagues were Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye; at San Diego, the high priestess of West Coast hot jazz, Rae Ann Berry.  More about those focused people later.

Now on vacation, with a dining room table in someone else’s house a a makeshift video studio, I set up my tangle of wires and began to transfer the Whitley Bay material — and aimed the first performance at my friend Nancie Beaven, who holds the Hot Antic Jazz Band close to her very substantial heart.  The video had an ornate metal structure in the left of the frame, and it began with the usual HAJB “gab,” but I was pleased with it, as was Nancie:

But Chance comes into our lives, bringing along its sibling Accident, and cousin Gravity.  I tripped over the tangle of wires, not once, but twice, sending the plastic drive crashing to the floor, and when the wreckage was tidied up (superficially), the hard drive whined and blinked, but something in it had been wounded.  I remained calm and didn’t fume — for, after all, getting angry at yourself isn’t all that satisfying.  And I have been practicing my “acceptance” in light of several disappointments in the last few months.

What also tempered my emotions was that I could have prevented this debacle had I paid attention to the quiet counsel of Byron, my computer expert, who had said to me that everything I had on these hard drives and elsewhere should have a separate backup.  The thought made me nervous: I saw my apartment turning, even more, into a storage space for little black plastic boxes — no more clothing and goodbye food and dishes and pots! — in pursuit of data protection, but when the WD box hit the floor, I thought of just how right he had been.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross spent her time characterizing stages that were much more serious, but I think she would have recognized something similar in the emotions I passed through when imagining the loss of what I had captured in those videos.  (Today a local computer expert told me that the drive was dead, and if I wanted to spend over a thousand dollars I could recover the data — a steep price to erase the incident.)  But I knew that I had not been the only person with a camera in the room, and I emailed my videoing-friends to ask if I had their permission to repost a selection of their videos, crediting them, on JAZZ LIVES.  They all generously said YES.  Because of them, my readers will experience some of the delights that we all did.

The morals?

1)  Generosity created results in generosity received.

2)  BACK UP YOUR DATA.  One never knows, do one?

DROP THAT SACK!

Before the words begin to flow, here’s some convincing evidence, courtesy of my videographer friend Elin Smith — Thomas Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders with Bent Persson playing POTATO HEAD BLUES, recorded at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival:

Thomas and his Jazz Serenaders have recorded DROP THAT SACK! — a CD of music associated with Louis and Sidney Bechet, including their collaborations and ending with two songs associated with later Bechet.  The songs are ONCE IN A WHILE / ALLIGATOR CRAWL / SAVOY BLUES / ORIENTAL STRUT / TEXAS MOANER / DROP THAT SACK! / OLD-FASHIONED LOVE / BIG FAT MA AND SKINNY PA / PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES / NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT / DON’T FORGET TO MESS AROUND / PERDIDO STREET BLUES / DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN / STRANGE FRUIT / VIPER MAD / PETITE FLEUR.

The musicians are Thomas, clarinet, soprano sax; Bent Persson, trumpet, cornet;  Rodolphe Compomizzi, trombone;  Jean-Claude “Lou” Lauprete, piano; 
Pierre-Alain Maret, banjo, guitar; Henry Lemaire, bass; Jean Lavorel, drums.

I hadn’t heard or heard of Thomas before the 2010 festival, but Bent Persson made a special point of recommending him to me — and when Bent recommends another musician, I take it seriously.  Thomas is a superb player; like Bent, he understands not only the records but the idiom, and can nimbly become Bechet or Johnny Dodds while sounding like himself — no small accomplishment.  And the CD is a delightful representation both of the Masters and of the twenty-first century musicians doing them honor.  It’s always a pleasure to hear some of the less-recorded Hot Five and Hot Seven material, and this band is able to summon up the deep melancholy of STRANGE FRUIT as well as the jubilant elevation of VIPER MAD.

Ideally, one would buy a copy of the CD from Thomas at a gig, but for those who aren’t flying around Europe in search of the real thing, the financial details are:

Send your address and 30 swiss francs or 22 euros to :
   Thomas Winteler
   ch. du levant 10B
   1299 Crans-près-Céligny
   Switzerland

(the price includes postal costs)
 

You can find out more about Thomas and his friends (including his substantial discography complete with music clips) at his website, http://www.winteler-music.ch/. 

Finally, some speculative etymology.  I think with affection of the Czech novelist Josef Skvorecky, who wrote in his novel THE COWARDS (or his novella THE BASS SAXOPHONE) of his difficulties with jazz-related English (he was a youthful amateur tenor player during the Second World War): encountering “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” for the first time, he was puzzled by the word-by-word translation: could it really mean “Walking pompously with an animal carcass roasted whole”? 

I have the same feelings about “Drop that sack!”  Is it really an old-time racially-based joke about chicken-stealing, or did it mean, “Let’s get out of here” or “Get rid of that unattractive person”? 

It adds something to the resonance of the words that DROP THAT SACK was one of the two titles that Louis recorded “anonymously” with Lil’s Hot Shots for a competing label while he was under contract to OKeh — trying to hide Louis’s conception and sound would be like pretending the great Chicago Fire wasn’t burning . . . . but I wonder if there are hidden meanings to the expression, just as we later learned that “Struttin’ with some barbecue” was a pre-PC way of saying, “Walking proudly with my beautiful girlfriend.” 

Suggestions, anyone?

VIDEOGRAPHERS THREE!

What do Rae Ann Berry, Elin Smith, and Lisa (Mook) Ryan have in common?  They’re all women who have a deep involvement in jazz, even though they don’t play instruments.  Nor are they married to instrumentalists or players. 

All three are very creative members of the jazz audience — which is often more male than female.  But they do more than sit and applaud: they are improvisers behind the camera, video artists. 

Rae Ann is known to many by her YouTube channel name — SFRaeAnn — and she takes her camera to jazz happenings on the West Coast: regularly, she finds Clint Baker and his band at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, or a solo piano recital by the esteemed Ray Skjelbred at Pier 23 in San Francisco, as well as regularly videorecording jazz fetival performances.  Here are two of her most recent captures:

From July 20, 2010, here’s Ray working his deep-blue way through KMH DRAG, an impromptu blues line created by Max Kaminsky, Freddie Moore, and Art Hodes for a memorable Blue Note record date in (I believe) 1944:

And ten days later, Rae Ann recorded Clint and friends at Cafe Borrone, playing HINDUSTAN.  That’s Clint, clarinet; Leon Oakley, trumpet and necktie; Jim Klippert, trombone; Jason Vanderford, guitar; Bill Reinhart, bass; Steve Apple, drums; and Robert Young, banjo.  There’s good rocking tonight, New Orleans-style:

Elin Smith lives in England, and it was my good fortune to meet her and Ron, her husband, last year at Whitley Bay and again this year.

Elin loves to record jazz performances, but also is fascinated by composing films: her YouTube channel is “elinshouse,” and here she’s trained her lens on two performances by Thomas Winteler, who sounds more like Sidney Bechet than anyone I’ve ever  heard.  These songs are from the most recent Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, where Thomas was joined by my hero Bent Persson on trumpet, Michel Bard on reeds, Lou Laprete on piano, Henri Lamaire on bass, and Ron Houghton on drums for ALLIGATOR CRAWL:

And a triumphant POTATO HEAD BLUES.  Like its predecessor, it suggests what might have happened if Sidney had brought his clarinet into the OKeh studios while Louis and his Hot Seven were recording:

Finally, there’s Lisa (Mook) Ryan, another Californian. 

Lisa is intrigued not only by the music of Bix Beiderbecke but by the people who continue to investigate it, play it, and keep his legacy alive.  She’s done wonderfully atmospheric films set to Bix’s music.  Here’s IN THE DARK (as played by Dick Hyman) which she’s used atmospherically — creating juxtapositions of slowly-observed still photographs — to muse on what Bix experienced and felt in the year 1928, all seen as shades of light, shadow, and blackness.  Other impressionistic creations of Lisa’s can be seen on her “MookRyan” channel:

 Most recently, under the heading of “MookCam,” she’s captured cornetist Andy Schumm in performance.  Although youthful, Andy has so many fans with video cameras (including myself) that he might be the most-documented jazz musician of the last two or three years — a singular tribute to his talent and the affection it inspires! 

Here are Andy and His Gang at the Putnam Museum, on July 22, 2010.  Andy is playing Bix’s cornet, John Otto on clarinet and sax, Vince Giordano on bass sax/tuba/string bass, Dave Bock on trombone, David Boeddinghaus on the Beiderbecke family piano, Leah Bezin on banjo, and Josh Duffee on drums for a merging of CLARINET MARMALADE and SINGIN’ THE BLUES:

The generous creativity of RaeAnn, Elin, and Lisa inspires us!

“I GIVE UP!” SAID VERY LOUDLY

When I’ve been faced with something that’s annoying and frustrating — trying to find a parking space in Manhattan in an unwelcoming hour — after attempting everything plausible and reasonable, I have been known to say I GIVE UP! at high volume several times.  More often than not, just the dramatic pretense of a man ready to do the desperate act of overpaying for parking helps . . . a spot opens up.  The loud enactment of theatrical despair seems to help. 

So I am trying it here:

I GIVE UP!

“What is he complaining about?” you might ask.  It’s a technical problem.  I came back from the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival with a new Panasonic HD video camera full of jazz videos — over one hundred fine performances.  And I began to download (or upload) them to YouTube, thence to this blog for all to see.  This worked wonderfully well in the US, and it worked — poorly and painfully slowly — in the UK.  It took something like three days to download four clips by the Hot Antic Jazz Band.  Then, here in Oxford, where the wireless broadband seems swift, nothing . . . either YouTube takes twelve hours to load a five-minute clip and then tells me (in my favorite new redundant phrase) “length of clip is too long” or it loads a clip in eight hours and then the video is out of synch with the audio, creating an impossible-to-watch spectacle.

If this latest batch of clips doesn’t load, I’m taking my clips and going off to do something else.  I’m going on strike.  You’ll see the Whitley Bay performances — starting in September. 

I will be grateful for any technical suggestions, but must say that I am hopeless at this: my dear friend Elin Smith tried to explain it to me, but her clear email had me converting formats back and forth until I was dizzy.  Pretend you’re writing to someone who hasn’t converted video files before . . . and sorry for the delay!

WHAT JAZZ LOOKS LIKE (Whitley Bay, July 2010)

Jean-Francois Bonnel, playing as if his life depended upon it:

Enrico Tomasso, himself and the horn inseparably charged:

Nick Ward, Rhythm King:

 Elin Smith, jazz videographer:

Jazz has many other faces: here are four of its most noble citizens.

MIKE DURHAM’S BRILLIANT IDEA (ANOTHER ONE!)

Mike Durham is not only a fine trumpet player and soulful man.  He’s also the embodiment of musical generosity — with his wife Patti (herself inimitable) he has given the world twenty Whitley Bay International Jazz Festivals.  The 2010 one was announced as the final one, and I think all the musicians and listeners had their joy tinged by a certain melancholy: to paraphrase Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Whitley Bay?”

Yes and no.  Of course.

There will be no WBIJF in May 2011.  That is the bad news.

However, Mike has an idea — a Classic Jazz Party to be held at the same location (the comfortable Village Newcastle Hotel) for three days in November 2011  — Friday to Sunday, November 4-6. 

It would be a long weekend filled to the brim with hot music from the artists who have so enlivened Whitley Bay.  Bent Persson, Michel Bastide, Keith Nichols, Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Kristoffer Kompen, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Frans Sjostrom, Spats Langham, Martn Wheatley, Nick Ward, Josh Duffee, Debbie Arthurs, and more. 

As he envisions it, it would be three days of jazz — from midday to midnight, with each band presenting an hour-long set. 

But jazz parties are expensive endeavors, so Mike cannnot go ahead with this one without some funding up front from the faithful.  The principle of subscriptions is, I think, as old as publishing in the eighteenth century and as new as CD production in this century.  What Mike is asking from people is a check (or “cheque”) for a hundred pounds, made out to CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, and sent to him at 60 Highbury, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3LN.  Along with the money, he asks that you send your name and full address, phone number and email address. 

If too few people send their money (alas, alack, and woe) Mike promises to return every penny.  I don’t know what arrangement he might make for those of us who don’t have UK pounds at the ready, but he can be emailed at mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com.  And, for my part, before Whitley Bay 2010 had ended, I’d made sure to give Mike some coin of the realm, so that I could do my part . . . in hopes to sit with my pals Elin and Ron Smith and Honor and Richard and Robin and and . . . listening to the best jazz I can imagine. 

And if enough people subscribe, the Village Hotel (very comfortable) promises to offer three nights of dinner, bed, and breakfast for 175 pounds total, which is a bargain.  More details to follow.

Don’t be late! 

Don’t be left out! 

You come too!

JAZZ CORNUCOPIA! (Whitley Bay, July 2010)

Mike Durham, the fine trumpet player, festival organizer, and wit, sent along the following list.  For those who have never been to the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — and 2010 is THE FINAL ONE — this list will be both enticing and mysterious.  This is the schedule of which bands will be playing at what times during what is sure to be a thrillingly music-packed weekend.  It takes place in a well-appointed hotel, and the “Cotton Club,” the “Sunset Cafe,” “Kelly’s Stables,” and the “One Cent Club” are rooms of varying sizes in the hotel. 

The schedule both exalts and terrifies.  I was saying to my first class the other morning (we are concluding MACBETH) that the universe is limitless, but the first choice, no matter how small, that one makes, renders other choices impossible.  So it is at Whitley Bay: if I want to  hear The Four Pods of Pepper (Spats Langham, Frans Sjostrom, and Norman Field) joined by Rico Tomasso, that makes it impossible, according to Newtonian physics, for me to be at “Kings of Stride” at the same time.  Of course, I could hear the first set of the Pods and then scamper in for some Stride after the break.  One must have a plan!  Or I could do what I did last time: stay where my heart led me and then wander . . .

I’ll have my video camera, of course, and Elin Smith will have hers, but it isn’t the same thing as being there.  Consider yourself encouraged to join in the fun, even if you don’t have a camera. 

Find out more at http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/

 
WHITLEY BAY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2010 – DAY BY DAY, ROOM BY ROOM, HOUR BY HOUR (OR JUST ABOUT!)
 
FRIDAY
 
                             Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                              7.00-9.00                                          9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club         Hot Antic Jazz Band                                   Blue Devils                                    New Century Ragtime Orch           Les Rois du Foxtrot

Sunset Café         La Retaguardia J B                                      N ew Orleans Rascals                      Bohem Ragtime J B                     Red Hot Peppers

Kelly’s Stables     Late Hour Boys                                          Schumm’s Bixologists                     Hot Antics                                   Bent Persson’s N Y Orch

One Cent             Jeff & Anne Barnhart                                West Jesmond R Kings           Kings of Stride                              Four Pods + Rico Tomasso
 
 
SATURDAY
 
                            Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                              7.00-9.00                                              9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club        Blue Devils                                                    Les Rois du Foxtrot                          New Orleans Rascals                              La Retaguardia
Sunset Café        Bohem Ragtime J B                             Flaming Reeds                                  Red Hot Peppers                                   Winteler’s Serenaders
Kelly’s Stables   Schumm’s Bixologists                       Hot Antics                                           Spats & Rhythm Boys                               Cecile Salvant 
One Cent           K Stephen’s Hot Club Trio                 Litton & Nichols – Ragtime          Late Hour Boys + Rico Tomasso           Doc Bastide’s Owls
 
 
SUNDAY
 
                              Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                      7.00-9.00                                           9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club        Chalumeau Serenaders                                 Bohem Ragtime J B                         Les Rois du Foxtrot                              Hot Antics (Grand Finale)
Sunset Café        Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders                          New Orleans Rascals                   La Retaguardia                            Schumm’s Bixologists
Kelly’s Stables   Late Hr Boys/Cecile Salvant (Billie H)        Field’s Novelty Orch                  M Seuffert Sextet             Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders
One Cent            Jeff & Anne Barnhart/Boogie Piano         Banjorama/Fidgety Fingers         Hot Jazz Trio

WE’LL BE THERE!

Where? 

At the twentieth — and last — Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  The theme this year — appropriately — is FROM AFRICA TO THE WORLD, and the bands come from all across the globe. 

It’s taking place this year (that’s 2010) 9-11 July, Friday-Sunday, with a pre-festival concert at the beautiful Sage Gateshead called MIDNIGHT IN MAYFAIR — a tribute by Keith Nichols to the British dance and jazz bands of the Thirties (with Rico Tomasso in that band)!  Once the festival begins, it will be non-stop jazz.  With these bands and players, how could it be otherwise?

La Retaguardia Jazz Band (Chile)

New Orleans Rascals (Japan)

Andy Schumm’s Bixologists (USA)

Les Rois du Fox-Trot (France)

Bohém Ragime Orchestra (Hungary)

Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys (Australia)

Hot Antic Jazz Band (France)

Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (UK)

Hot Jazz Trio (Sweden)

Thomas Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders (Switzerland)

Cecile McLorin Salvant (France) with Jean-Francois Bonnel’s Swing Septet

Chalumeau Serenaders (Germany/Sweden/UK)

Jeff Barnhart’s Ivory & Gold (USA)

Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers

Bent Persson’s New York Orchestra (Red Allen Tribute)

Fidgety Fingers with Langham, Wheatley and Stephen

Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra

Barrelhouse & Boogie/ Kings of Harlem Stride/Ragtime Piano Summit

Spats & His Rhythm Boys

New Century Ragtime Orchestra

West Jesmond Rhythm Kings

Keith Stephen’s Hot Club Trio with Caroline (Irwin)

Flaming Reeds

Don’t be the last one on your block!

Visit http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/home.htm for all sorts of useful details — pictures of the musicians, hotel information, and (of course) ticket prices.

I hear tell that Bob Cox, John Whithorn, Elin and Ron Smith will be there — as well as the Beloved and your humble correspondent.

WHITLEY BAY 2009: THE CLOSING SET

At the end of the three-day memorable immersion that was the July 2009 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, I was overwhelmed — awash in the contradictory feelings I always have when nearing the end of a jazz party.  I am terriibly sad, because I don’t want the music ever to end, but at the same time I have had just about enough of the rich sensations offered in set after set.  I’m full — as anyone would be after a lavish multi-course meal.  But I know Monday is coming . . .  

So when Bob Cox came and found me sometime on Sunday evening and said, “Where have you been?  You’ve got to come and hear the Swiss Yerba Buena Creole Rice Jazz Band,” I was mildly reluctant, being in full-mode.  I confess I was unfamiliar with their work; it may even be that the sheer length of their name intimidated me. 

Rene Hagmann is playing with them,” Bob said, which was  more than enough reason for me go hear their set.  

I was delighted then — and I am delighted now to be able to share these video clips here.  I don’t know the precise personnel of the band, but the Clerc family is its backbone — father Beat and son Fabien on trumpets, and son Olivier on drums and washboard.  Besides Hagmann and Jean-Francois Bonnel guest stars on reeds, there is also Leonard Muller.  I confess I don’t know the name of the wonderful trombonist (and occasional scat-singer); the pianist is Jean-Pierre Burkhard; the banjoist is Nidi Niederhauser; Jean-Daniel Gisclon plays the tuba.  On their latest CD, Regis Dessimoz is also on trumpet.

Much of the SYBCRJB’s repertoire is drawn from venerable jazz recordings, and the thrill is in hearing a real band play these charts live, with solos that dart in and out of the ones we know by heart.      

To start, here is something for the Bixians — a Goldkette romp on I’M GOING TO MEET MY SWEETIE NOW, with reed virtuoso Bonnel playing trumpet:

Then the band honors I’LL BE A FRIEND WITH PLEASURE, with Bonnel taking an impassioned early-Thirties Hawkins solo instead of the vocal:

What more could I say about DO SOMETHING except to point out that the band certainly lives up to the imperative:

Finally, two maniacally ecstatic performances featuring the tireless Olivier Clerc on washboard.  The first is GOIN’ NUTS, taken from a 1929 record session by an Ellington small group, the Six Jolly Jesters.  Once again I apologize to the trombonist — not only didn’t I know his name, but I couldn’t tear my camera lens away from Olivier to record his memorably uninhibited scatting.  So sorry, Sir, wherever you may be at the moment.  And don’t miss Rene Hagmann on kazoo or air-trombone:

And more!  that ancient pop tune, PADDLIN’ MADELINE (or MADELIN’?)  HOME (with its suggestion that she is in no hurry to have the hedonism come to an end so that she can go back to sedate life, Mother and Father, and dry land):

When this set ended, I, too, was on my feet, applauding.  I went over to the piano to buy the SYBCRJB’s latest CD and to pay homage to young Olivier.  I praised his incredible stamina and said — as innocently as I could — that I hoped his lady love was equally appreciative of it.  It took a moment for that to translate, but my naughtiness made him laugh, which was what I had hoped for.

Down the hall, a jam session in the bar lasted until I went to my room at 2 AM– bravely facing the inevitable, that Monday would come soon enough.  Which it did.  But here’s what I took away with me.

Goodbye, Whitley Bay!  See you next year . . . .  

TheSYBCRJB’s website, not incidentally, is http://www.swissyerba.com.  And they have other videos on YouTube — several recorded by the nimble Elin Smith.

WHAT A CATCH!

At Whitley Bay, petite Elin Smith was usually seated near me, gazing seriously through her viewfinder, videotaping some of the same performances.  We got into conversation — she’s a lovely person, ideally matched: husband Ron loves jazz; Elin loves film first, jazz second.  She’s been posting some wonderful video captures on YouTube (her channel is called elinshouse) — but the latest one is a delight: the Swiss Yerba Buena Creole Rice Jazz Band playing early Ellington — Duke’s HARLEM RIVER QUIVER, with solos by the brass section (trumpeter Beat Clerc, trombonist Jurgen Eberhard, and Rene Hagmann on baritone sax . . . . !