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.

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“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!