Tag Archives: Facebook

EXQUISITE FUN: “RECORDING WITH JOHN S. REYNOLDS and CASEY MacGILL,” JANUARY 2018

Improvising, that act we celebrate in jazz, is larger than simply constructing new melodies on familiar harmonies, or making-it-up-as-they-go-along.  Sometimes the willingness to capture it live is precious and creates splendid memorable — if unplanned — results.

Casey MacGill and John Reynolds, perhaps a few revolutions ago.

A little personal history.  One of the reasons I came out to California in 2011 was to hear and see for myself the Reynolds Brothers.  Thanks to the videos created by RaeAnn Berry, I’d seen the band on my computer screen but wanted more immediacy — which I found in session after session for the next few years.  I was awed by John S. Reynolds — guitarist, singer, whistler — and remain so.  He combines deep romance, satire, and irresistible swing.  I had few opportunities to savor his unpredictable magic once returning to New York in 2015.  On January 24, when I saw a Facebook video (captured perfectly by the Blessed Jessica McKinney) of John and the nimble multi-talented Casey MacGill — whose work I’ve known and admired — (ukulele, cornet, vocal) I was thrilled and elated.  Here’s the first of their performances, a rollicking SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA:

Perhaps in tribute to the late Rose Marie, TAKE A PICTURE OF THE MOON:

And another delicious slice of 1931-2, WITHOUT THAT GAL!

As you can imagine, I was ecstatic about this music, and asked — not altogether whimsically — when the DVD was coming out, how could I buy the CD, when was the world tour, and could these videos be synthesized in pill form so that I could carry them in a tin and take as needed.

Here’s an excerpt from Casey’s sweet response:

Hi Michael,

Thank you so much for your kind words and support. We really appreciate it.  Our get together with John was originally intended to be a part of a CD created to market to people in the ukulele community. The recording was to consist of myself playing one or two tracks with different musicians. Some of them come from the ukulele community, and are ukulele players themselves, and other musicians are long term collaborators like John.

My partner Jessica has a zoom recording machine which we are using to make these recordings. We are getting together with people as we travel to collect songs. This obviously is a modest effort geared to a specific audience.

We met John at his home in Glendale, California, and repaired to his tiny art studio in the back of the garage. John and I had only been playing a few minutes when Jessica felt compelled to film us as she also made an audio recording. We never dreamt that there would be such a huge reaction to the videos.  When you and others responded by asking about a CD, it has made us think of recording more with John. And that is where we are currently.

John and I do go back to 1975, actually. We met at a holiday party in the home of Robert Armstrong, one of the original Cheap Suit Serenaders. Another guest at the party was Ward Kimball, famous artist at Walt Disney Studios and founder of the Firehouse Five.  We worked together constantly for about 3 1/2 years between 1980 and 1984, to great acclaim in Los Angeles as 2/3 of the trio Mood Indigo. There was always great chemistry and I am still happy to play straight man to John’s magic.

Jessica and I will have to figure out when and how to make this recording with John a project unto itself. We want to do this as soon as possible and we will keep you posted.

So there’s something else life-enhancing to look forward to.  It’s just idle musing, but I wonder how people who savor this fine music could help get a CD made.

Blessings on Casey, John, and Jessica.  Thanks for lifting our spirits in swing.

May your happiness increase!

Advertisements

THE OPPOSITE OF DESTRUCTIVENESS IS KINDNESS, OR, TAKE A LOOK AT T WERK’S WORKS

I’m reposting this February 2017 post for a reason.  I’ve never met the string bassist and energetic recordist T Werk Thomson in person, but I’ve admired his work (or werk) from when I first heard it.  Simply, about a year ago, he created in his New Orleans home a recording studio.  Not with ProTools and his MacBook, but with a Presto disc cutter, a supply of “new” 78 recording blanks, and he set out to capture good music in the best old-time ways.  And that music — detailed below — was just splendid.  As well, I applauded the splendid eccentricity of his capturing it as hot jazz, cage-free, organic, and locally sourced.  (Another product of T Werk’s studio is Charlie Halloran’s superb CE BIGUINE.)

At the end of 2017, I and others learned that someone had maliciously vandalized T Werk’s studio and destroyed his disc cutter and all that it needed to make more records.  I won’t go into the dark details — this is a jazz blog, not an episode of a television cop show — but that act seemed spectacularly mean-spirited.  Jo Anna Mae Amlin set up a GoFundMe page here and some people have been contributing.  I encourage you to do so.  As Louis sings in SHOE SHINE BOY, “every nickel helps a lot,” and one can match altruism with desire. If T Werk gets his studio running again, there will be more records for us to enjoy. So even if kindness in the abstract seems more than you can do, kindness with a reward is worth the effort.  If everyone who’s heard T Werk swing out paid in the price of a large Starbucks drink, or a beer, or (for the antiquarians among us) a CD, he would be able to reconstruct his studio quickly.  (And I should point out that Presto disc cutters and acetate blanks are not items one can pick up at the corner store.)

So: help out someone who’s already done a great deal for the music and for us.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled effusions.

The CD below is delightfully weird but the results are entirely gratifying. Perhaps that sentence should properly read “and the results”: you decide.

Exhibit A.  The process:

Twerk Thomson with Kris Tokarski and Ben Polcer, and two turntables. Photograph by John A. Dixon.

Twerk Thomson with Kris Tokarski and Ben Polcer, and two turntables. Photograph by John A. Dixon.

Exhibit A.1.a: A Presto disc cutter from eBay:

presto-cutter

Exhibit A.1.b: Blank discs, also from eBay:

presto-discs

Exhibit B. The result:

twerk-cd-cover

Exhibit B.1.a.:

bunk-popular

Exhibit C. The results, continued here.

Exhibiit D.  The explanation.  The story has different parts, which combine. Twerk Thomson is a young yet respected New Orleans string bassist, with a real understanding of the art form, often heard with the Shotgun Jazz Band.  And he, like other musicians and scholars, is fascinated by the intersection of “archaic” sound and the technology of its time. It’s one thing to get musicians into a modern studio — which, at its most “modern,” is a very restrictive environment, where musicians can barely see each other and hear each other through headphones . . . and then try to improvise music that will seem natural to the disc’s purchaser.  But what happens when you record twenty-first century improvisers with the technology of the previous century, the century that gave birth to the innovators they (and we) so admire?  The music I am celebrating in this post, created last year, is a tribute to Bill Russell’s American Music creations. And the new CD sounds wonderful.

But something needs to be said about the Presto home record cutter and discs. Before the computer and the iPhone . . . music used to be packaged tangibly on a variety of discs, and enterprising people could record their own music at home — whether it was Aunt Ella singing and playing hymns or the Paso Robles Wanderers working out the trio of MABEL’S DREAM.  I have found these discs at yard sales, and they’ve never offered something life-changing, such as a broadcast from the Reno Club, but they are tantalizing.  The whole idea is roughly parallel to another piece of archaic technology, the Polaroid camera, but I assure you the discs hold up better.

Twerk told me, “I got my first cutter about a year and a half ago, which ended up being completely useless.  So I ended up buying two more.  They come up on eBay every so often. Finding ones that were affordable was the big challenge.
Blanks come up on eBay as well but they are very hit and miss when It comes to quality. I actually ended up finding a bunch of original presto blanks on there once that were actually still usable. They came in the original packaging which was really cool.  But for higher quality blanks we use a company called Apollo, from California.”

The official version is “The performances herein were recorded live with one microphone into a Presto K8 lathe, cut directly to acetate discs at 78 rpm, and edited only for volume. All Sessions Produced by Twerk Thomson and Recorded by John Dixon, Live at Twerk-O-Phonic Studios, New Orleans, LA.”

The songs: OH, YOU BEAUTIFUL DOLL / OLD FASHIONED LOVE / MY GAL SAL / PRETTY BABY / SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART / SWEET BYE AND BYE (Twerk Thomson, string bass; Ben Polcer, trumpet; Kris Tokarski, piano) / JADA / SHINE  / ONE SWEET LETTER FROM YOU / NOON BLUES / MARIE / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE / MELANCHOLY BLUES  (Twerk, John Rodli, guitar, vocal on JADA; Kris; Ben; James Evans, C-melody saxophone, clarinet; Charlie Halloran, trombone) / IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE / MAMA’S GONE, GOODBYE / POOR BUTTERFLY (Twerk, Russell Welch, guitar; Alex Owen, trumpet; Bruce Brackmon, clarinet; Marty Peters, tenor saxophone) / HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO? / HOME (Twerk, tenor guitar; Marla Dixon, trumpet and vocal).

Exhibit E: Twerk Thomson on Facebook.

If you’re familiar with any of the heroes recorded on this disc (and you can hear / download / purchase the music on the Soundcloud link above) you will know what to expect: music that is both romping and elegantly controlled, harking back to the Bunk Johnson – Don Ewell – Alphonso Steele trios and slightly larger ensembles.  The “vintage sound” — powerfully focused if somewhat narrower (at first) than we are used to — is so atmospheric.  The discs have occasional surface noise, whooshes and clicks, but the noise is part of the overall effect rather than something added on synthetically.  Everyone plays beautifully and with heart, so the result is not merely the documentation of a gimmick, but a melding of technology and reverent impulse.

I first heard a few of the individual sessions on Twerk’s Facebook page, and thought, “Wow, I hope he puts these into a form that people who want to get away from their computers can purchase and have.”  And he did.  So I can now time-travel to some indeterminate place whenever I want, even while driving to work.  And Twerk has also established Twerk-O-Phonic Studios as a place (a sanctuary for music!) where you can visit and record your own music onto an actual disc — a single artifact, not a mass-produced product — to have, to hear, to admire.  I don’t want this to become such a phenomenon that he no longer has time to play the propulsive string bass he does so well, but a little prosperity would be nice.

I commend this disc to you.  The music on it both embraces and transcends the technology.  And, to me, the complete idea — the musicians, the home environment, the discs — is heartwarming.

May your happiness increase!

FULLY IN POSSESSION

In some states, possession of even a small amount of forbidden substance is a crime.  But — thankfully — few regimes have currently criminalized RHYTHM, so the James Dapogny Quartet is safe to swing out.  It’s delightful to hear a group of improvisers take on I GOT RHYTHM in its natural plumage, since the chord changes have become “adapted” and “adopted” for so many swing originals.  The only problem here is that the Gershwin title is singular.  For this group, it has to be WE’VE GOT RHYTHM, and they are decisive about the ownership of same.

James Dapogny, piano; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass. Recorded by Laura Beth Wyman  at the Glacier Hills Senior Living Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on June 26, 2015.  Two other marvels from this session can be marvelled at here.  

Laura has set up a Facebook page for her video efforts celled simply Wyman Video.  If you admire her generous efforts, why not “like” the page?

It could be the best slightly-under-three-minutes you will spend this year.  And Hank Duncan sends his love.

May your happiness increase!

CATNIP FOR HUMANS! (June 21, 2015)

You don’t have to be a cat or have one.  Just get comfortable and watch this extraordinary offering — joy doubled and tripled, in sound and motion.  I’m so delighted that this exists:

Thanks to Erin Morris and Her Ragdolls*: Erin Morris, Brittany Armstrong Morton, Sarah Campbell, Rachel Bomphray, Hayden Nickel.

Thanks to James Dapogny and his Jazz Band: Tom Bogardus, clarinet; Paul Finkbeiner, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; James Dapogny, piano / arrangements; Shannon Wade, string bass; Rod McDonald, banjo; Van Hunsberger, drums.

Thanks to Laura Beth Wyman, who filmed this delight at the Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Michigan on June 21, 2015.

And a few muttering comments.  One refers to the asterisk above, which leads the righteous among us to the Facebook page of Ms. Morris and her Ragdolls.  I’ve done my best — leaving aside threats and whinging as unseemly — but so far only 495 people have “liked” the Ragdolls.  Is this what Bill Robinson would have us do?  Or Walter Page?  Knute Rockne?  Joan Blondell?  William Carlos Williams?  Reginald Marsh?

I ask you.  Please, so that I sleep longer and happier, “like” them tonight.  Now.

I spent several hours in a waiting room today — for boring reasons, nothing serious — where there was the inevitable cable television on, bolted to the wall above our heads.  The E! cable channel.  I despair, when I think that there is no Dapogny – Morris channel, yet the E! channel blathers on.  Well, instead of succumbing to darkness and bleakness, I will watch the video of ST. LOUIS BLUES again.  It occurs to me that this package — band and dancers — could be wooed out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for someone willing to uplift the rest of the country.  Anyone daring reading this post?

May your happiness increase!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HUMPH!

HUMPH

Humphrey Lyttelton would have been 94 this May 23, 2015.  Although I have ordinarily not celebrated the birthdays of my heroes, living and departed, this calls for a celebration.  (Humph, gregarious onstage, was the most private of jazz musicians, so whether he approves of this tribute is open to debate.  But here it is, anyway.)

The gorgeous soundtrack — rare and previously unheard — has been provided for us by Stephen Lyttelton, Humph’s son, and curator of the beautiful and engrossing website devoted to his father.

The song is an old favorite (oddly enough, one I associate with the pre-Basie / pre-Eddie Durham version of the Bennie Moten band, San Francisco jazz, and Louis with the Dukes of Dixieland) SOUTH:

Stephen’s brand-new YouTube channel is here.  (My feeling is that if many of us subscribe, he will be motivated to share more rare, unheard music.  What could possibly go wrong?)

And here is Stephen’s commentary, which I couldn’t improve:

A birthday gift for all Humphrey Lyttelton fans – please pass it on.

Humph would have been 94 today and to celebrate here is a free recording never before released.

Humph, with Bruce Turner and Roy Williams, was part of the Salute to Satchmo Tour that visited Australia in 1978. Rolling back the years and delving back into the New Orleans catalogue, Humph is joined by a local band called The West Coast Jazzmen from North Freemantle, Australia. The gig was a ‘loosener’ before the main concern the next day and the band let rip with their version of ‘South’.

The recording(s) was found on a CDR and restored by David Watson at The Monostery.

Please pass on to fans who may not be linked to Humph’s web page or Facebook.

And here‘s the Facebook page for Humphrey Lyttelton 1928-2001.  “Like” it!  I do.

May your happiness increase! 

EXPANDING THE COMMUNITY, or WELCOME, KELLEY!

I think of the small group of people who are so devoted to jazz that they become video archivists as a dear community.  None of this “standing on the shoulders of giants” for me, because my balance is not so good when I am standing in that way.  Merely envisioning this gives me vertigo.

No, my image is a small circle of people holding hands, close enough to look in each others’ eyes and grin, proud of their own work and happy that others are doing it as well.  Here are a few friends I know personally, who have done so much to make the music accessible to people who can’t be everywhere.

My first role model was — and continues to be — the diligent Rae Ann Hopkins Berry, the reigning monarch of California Hot.  Since March 2008, she’s kept up a steady flow of videos on her YouTube channel.  I was inspired by her and continue to be so, even though I am no longer in California.  The people I first thought as the dear heroes of music I saw on her videos.

I started videoing on YouTube a bit later, and my first videos were of David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band / Louis Armstrong Centennial Band / Louis Armstrong Eternity Band in October 2008.  And I upload while you are sleeping, often while I, too, am sleeping.

New friends and videographers came along.  Eric Devine, the master of multiple cameras, who’s known as CineDevine, creates very polished videos at concerts, parties, and festivals from New England to Florida.  He started in 2008, too, although we continue to have an older brother – younger brother relationship when we talk shop.

A few years later, the Michigander flautist and friend of jazz Laura Beth Wyman set up shop in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, and has provided JAZZ LIVES with so many gorgeous videos of Professor James Dapogny and friends that she was asked to be the Chief of the Michigan Bureau, a task she accepted with great grace.

The newest member of the hand-holding video community is very welcome: her name is Kelley Rand and although her first videos have only shown up on Facebook about a week ago, her work is astonishing.  For one thing, she is getting splendid results with her iPhone (which means that, unlike me, she is not carrying an eighteen-pound knapsack of cameras) and she has made about a half-dozen astonishing videos in New Orleans.  Several feature the ever-astonishing Dick Hyman and the melodic wonder Tim Laughlin in duet: WHO’S SORRY NOW, ONE HOUR, A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, and Hyman solos on JITTERBUG WALTZ and S’WONDERFUL.  She’s also captured Tim and the brilliant young pianist Kris Tokarski in performance at the Bombay Club: IF DREAMS COME TRUE, LOVE NEST, OH DADDY BLUES, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE.

Since I am in New Orleans once a year, so far, at most, I have appointed her the Chief of the Louisiana Bureau.  She will only find this out when she reads this far, and I hope she agrees.  The health benefits are not delineated in any contract: they simply mean that more people will get to know her, thank her, and appreciate her diligence and generosities.

The nicest part of all this is that we all respect each other, make subtle courteous agreements not to step on each others’ turf, get in each others’ shots, and so on. We are united in the name of MUSIC, and the deep notion that as many people should get to enjoy it as possible.  And we capture the evanescent and make it tangible, even eternal.

And — as an afterthought — I know there are many people videoing at clubs and concerts around the world, and I mean them no offense by not including them here.  But these four people are dear to me, and I am proud to know them.

May your happiness increase!

“PUCKER UP AND BLOW!”: DANCING MICE, A DUCK WITH A BOWTIE, AND ENDEARING SONG (1955)

The pianist and composer Kris Tokarski, someone I both respect and like, started a discussion on Facebook on March 31, asking the question,

Facebook Survey: In your opinion, what makes a jazz singer, a jazz singer? Musically speaking what qualities/skills must they have? Is there a difference between singers who just sing tunes from the Great American Songbook (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and a “jazz” singer? Go!

The responses were intriguing — and although I find such questions ultimately not terribly “useful” as more than an excuse to air our deeply-held personal tastes, I couldn’t resist entering in. It gave me an excuse to utter the sacred name of Lee Wiley, for one thing.  But I soon retired and left the field to more eager debaters.

But Facebook — which can be terribly irritating and an unsubtle call to our worst instincts — is also a wondrous playground. The jazz scholar Steve Zalusky found and posted this kinescope of Cliff Edwards singing and playing GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE on the Mickey Mouse Club television show — in the Cliff Edwards Ukulele Ike Facebook group, and I love it.  A few cautionary remarks.  If you hate all things Disney, try to calm down for a few minutes, since a half-dozen of the songs from the early films are true classics. Aside from SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME (ideologically charged, I know, but such a beautiful melody) there’s WITH A SMILE AND A SONG (which Rebecca Kilgore has recorded memorably, for all time) and this one.

The description of this performance is:

“Cliff Edwards appearing on the Mickey Mouse Club Nov 15, 1955. Edwards is 60 here. He sings and plays tenor ukulele. With Clarence ‘Donald Duck’ Nash doing baby noises and Jose Oliveira (next to Cliff) playing guitar and keeping it jazzy. And the Mouseketeers!! See more of Jose Oliveria here:
http://youtu.be/7cIZdPkvyHs.”

And the performance itself:

This makes me perilously happy.  And I think it is both superb jazz singing, hilarious theatre, and ineradicable art.  If you think it is none of the above, I will still love you, but I don’t want to hear about it.

I wish all the parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts that I know would start playing this video for the Young Talent — think of a generation that 1) knows how to sing GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE, 2) subliminally absorbs the message that to think of others is a good thing, 3) perhaps begins to play the ukulele, 4) begins to speak like Donald Duck or do what Edwards called “eefin'” — his own brand of weird scat-singing.  We could transform the cosmos.

May your happiness increase!