Tag Archives: Fat Babies

BY POPULAR DEMAND: THE CHICAGO CELLAR BOYS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: ANDY SCHUMM, JOHN OTTO, JOHNNY DONATOWICZ, DAVE BOCK, PAUL ASARO (November 24, 2018)

Here’s the good news.  I took as many opportunities as I could, without slighting other much-loved bands, to hear and video the Chicago Cellar Boys at the 2018 San Diego Jazz Fest.  Although I had some technical difficulties with my camera, I came home with over forty performances captured on video.  Here’s the second installment (the first offering is here).

There is no bad news.

LOVIN’ SAM FROM ALABAM’ (one of those songs particular to that decade that celebrates the amorous magic of a legendary figure — in some versions, Sam is also a Sheik, thus getting double credit):

THE THINGS THAT WERE MADE FOR LOVE:

WHO’S SIT? (originally recorded by the Hot Five, and some bright person suggested recently that the title we see here was missing a letter, but I propose that Mr. Fearn would not let that title be printed on an OKeh label):

APEX BLUES (for Messrs.  Noone and Poston):

BLUE BLACK BOTTOM (homage to Fats, piano solo by Paul Asaro):

SAXOPHONE SAM:

TIA JUANA (thinking of the Wolverines):

BEER GARDEN BLUES (a 1933 Clarence Williams song that I am sure celebrates the end of Prohibition, with a group vocal — later, Clarence, always industrious, gave it new lyrics as SWING, BROTHER, SWING, predating the Basie / Billie song of the same title, which had a different set of composers — one of them Walter Bishop Sr., whom my father worked with at Movietone News:

If you’ve listened closely to any of these performances, perhaps these words will be superfluous.  Although the CCB is (are?) young in terms of the calendar — born in 2017 — they are a glorious working band: yes, their solos are magnificently realized, sweet or hot; they are masters of Tonation and Phrasing — but they are a band, with gratifying ensemble telepathy.

Add to that their love of unusual repertoire, from the deeply sentimental to the searing, from love songs to dark blues; add to that the orchestrally-wise arrangements where something beautiful is always going on, the instrumental doubling that makes this quintet seem like a whole host of bands . . . may they go on and prosper for a long long time.  Each set was full of surprises, songs I’d never heard or heard of before, and songs I knew but heard for their first time — played with such conviction, intelligence, and joyous expertise.  Yes, there are homages to Noone, the Wolverines, and the Hot Five, but nothing’s hackneyed: this band loves later Clarence Williams and obscure territory bands, as well as songs possibly never recorded but still full of melodic substance.

They bring me (and others, of course) so much joy.

You can, as they say, find the CCB here on Facebook.  And two other bits of relevant information: the CCB is a smaller version of the delightful band, the Fat Babies, and the CCB has a steady Sunday-night gig here in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.  I’ve never been, but Charles has promised to take me.  And I hear that a CD of the band is in the making.

For the historians among us — here is the Blessed Antecedent:

May your happiness increase!

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MAKING THAT BARN DANCE: CARL SONNY LEYLAND, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON (July 28, 2016)

Both purr; neither is declawed.

Both purr; neither is declawed.

Joy-spreaders and happiness-increasers, they are Carl Sonny Leyland, piano / vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.  Here are three more performances from the trio’s recent excursion into Colorado for the Evergreen Jazz Festival.  Here are the first three by this three: joy cubed.

This outburst of pleasure — one night before the Festival began — is from the delightful barn concert in Longmont organized by the gracious Dorothy Bradford Vernon, on July 28.

This post is a little audio-visual bouquet, not only to the swing superheroes, but especially to Dorothy, whose generous energies made everyone happy.

An early Thirties love song (who knows what a Morris chair is, now?) with the verse, at a groovy tempo:

Carl’s version of the Economic Price Index:

and the barn was well and truly rocking:

Thanks to Dorothy, Carl, Clint, Jeff, and the wonderful dancers, too.

May your happiness increase!

BOUNCE, ROCK, and GROOVE: THE JONATHAN DOYLE SWINGTET (2015)

Who's that young man in the grip of Music? Jonathan Doyle, for certain.

Who’s that young man in the grip of Music? Jonathan Doyle, for certain.

I first encountered Jonathan Doyle (tenor saxophone, clarinet, compositions, arrangements) through my friend, master percussionist Hal Smith — more about that later — which is a stellar recommendation.  I then encountered Jon as the lead horn in a San Diego Jazz Fest session with Ray Skjelbred (another gold star) and most recently with the Fat Babies at the Evergreen Jazz Festival.  Somewhere in this delightful process of admiration, I heard and loved Jonathan’s CD, THE FED HOP, and we actually had a short friendly conversation at Evergreen.  His official biography can be found here.

Jonathan is not one of those highly-schooled fellows who “understands” swing from a safe distance.  Watch him on video for even eight bars, and you see that he is utterly immersed in it, his horn and his body in the grip of the most beautiful energies.  He also surrounds himself with like-minded souls who obviously live for this kind of lyrical groovy experience.  AND his compositions are quite wonderful: often subversively built on almost-familiar chord changes with titles that almost give the joke away.  For instance, I think I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK is a slow rock over the harmonies of ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE, the results being satisfying and a well-executed in-joke.  This band harks back to the Keynote sessions, to Basie small groups (with Basie himself smiling at the sounds but not at the keyboard), Benny Carter lines, and more . . . but they’re not in town to copy, but to evoke.  And they do it splendidly.

The swing heroes for this particular session, captured slightly more than a year ago at the Sahara Lounge in Austin, Texas, are Jonathan, tenor sax; David Jellema, cornet; Mark Gonzales, trombone; Brooks Prumo, rhythm guitar; Joshua Hoag, string bass; Jason Baczynski, drums.  The very expert videos are by Gary Feist of yellowdogvideo.com.

From left: Mark Gonzales, David Jellema, Joshua Hoag, Jonathan Doyle

From left: Mark Gonzales, David Jellema, Joshua Hoag, Jonathan Doyle

ESQUIRE BOUNCE:

Al Sears’ hit, CASTLE ROCK (a title that stands for something good, magnified):

Jon’s original, I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK:

Another original, STRANGE MACHINATIONS:

Some very good omens.  First, a close cousin of the band shown above has recorded a new CD, TOO HOT FOR SOCKS, which I will be writing about — enthusiastically, having heard some of it through digital magic.  You can hear it and Jon’s other recordings at his website and here.  He’s also on Facebook  here.  And — just to pile tantalizing bits of data one upon another –here is his YouTube channel, full of delights.  (So the young man may play like it’s 1946 but he certainly knows how to navigate this century with grace.)

Hal Smith (mentioned admiringly above) has a new band, SWING CENTRAL, which features Jon as the sole horn, exploring the best floating small-band swing with a focus on Lester Young, Charlie Christian, and Pee Wee Russell.  The other participants have been pianist Dan Walton, guitarist Jamey Cummins, and either Joshua Hoag or Steve Pikal on string bass.  They’ve played at the Capital City Jazz Fest in Madison, Wisconsin in April, and they just had a gig at Central Market in Austin, Texas.  Rumor has it that a few festival appearances are being discussed, as is a CD recording session.  And — no rumor — I will have some videos from Austin to share with you in the near future.  A band to look out for!

Keep grooving with Jonathan Doyle and friends, wherever you find them.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGIN’ IN THE EVERGREENS: CARL SONNY LEYLAND, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON in COLORADO (July 2016)

Carl SOnny Leyland and a devoted fan.

Carl SOnny Leyland and a devoted fan.

They use their powers for good: their seismic vibrations help keep the planet on its proper axis.  Not Marvel Comics, but Carl Sonny Leyland, piano / vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

Here are three performances from the trio’s recent excursion into Colorado for the Evergreen Jazz Festival.

The first — one night before the Festival began — is from the delightful barn concert in Longmont organized by the gracious Dorothy Bradford Vernon, on July 28.  (I am shy of exploring new places in the dark in a rental car, so my willingness to drive an hour — even with a GPS — in uncharted Colorado should give an idea of my delight in Carl, Clint, and Jeff.)

An energized MY GAL SAL:

The second two come from the Festival itself, the first being Carl’s own song-form COUSCOUS BOOGIE, performed on the 29th:

and a solo excursion (July 30), which I have titled LET IT ALL HANG OUT:

The Evergreen Jazz Festival was superb and consistently gratifying, with splendid performances by the Kris Tokarski Trio with Tim Laughlin and Hal Smith, the Fat Babies, and many other bands. I will have much more uplifting evidence to share with you.

Carl, Clint, and Jeff showed off — in the most natural joyous way — immense musical and sonic versatility.  They delighted us on the spot, and these videos are full of life.

May your happiness increase!

GOIN’ TO COLORADO (The EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL, July 29-31, 2016)

Yes, the land of double rainbows, elk roaming the parking lot in the darkness, and a very satisfying weekend of hot jazz in many flavors.

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

That’s the Evergreen Jazz Festival, which I was fortunate to attend in 2014, following James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band around — in rain, in sunshine, to that very fine Vietnamese restaurant Saigon Landing.

This July 29-31, the Evergreen Jazz Festival boasts a number of local favorites: Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra, After Midnight, the Queen City Jazz Band with Wende Harston, Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles, Gypsy Swing Revue, The Poudre River Irregulars, Felonius Smith Trio.

But the out-of-towners are quite special also.  The Fat Babies, from Chicago; Nicki Parrott and B.A.D. Rhythm, from all over, Carl Sonny Leyland Trio (with Clint Baker and Jeff Hamilton) from California, and the Kris Tokarski Trio (with Tim Laughlin and Hal Smith) from New Orleans by way of Searcy, Arkansas.

Here‘s the complete schedule, so you can start planning.  (I use a yellow highlighter, myself.)  I’m also going to be studying the map, since I got heroically lost in 2014.

Evergreen map

Here‘s ticket information (prices are very inexpensive).  And for those who are unconvinced by photographs of rainbows, I offer a few postings here and here from 2014 so that you can get a good sense of the delicious hot jazz inspired by Evergreen.  It’s an inspiring place.

May your happiness increase!

MY HONEY, THAT THING, A SWEETIE, NEVER THE SAME, A JUMP: RAY SKJELBRED, JONATHAN DOYLE, BEAU SAMPLE, HAL SMITH (SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST, November 29, 2014)

Ray Skjelbred

Ray Skjelbred

I keep coming back to the videos I’ve shot at several yearly incarnations of the San Diego Jazz Fest — and finding treasures and marvels I’d overlooked.  (I also keep coming back to the actual Fest, but that should startle no one.)

Jonathan Doyle

Jonathan Doyle

Here are some highlights from a long quartet set performed by Ray Skjelbred, piano; Jonathan Doyle, the swing star from Austin, Texas; Beau Sample, string bass and leader of the Fat Babies; Hal Smith, who’s played with and swung everyone who deserves it.

Beau Sample

Beau Sample

My titles are an expression of whimsical shorthand, but there’s nothing left out in these performances.  First, a swing trio (Chicago pays San Diego a visit) then quartet improvisations that are delightful inducements to the dance, even if you are sitting in a chair.

Hal Smith

Hal Smith

MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (scored for trio):

A song I associate with Bessie Smith, I’M WILD ABOUT THAT THING (decide for yourself what THAT THING is, but no need to write in, because no prizes will be awarded for the best answer).  I’m wild about this performance, I feel compelled to say:

BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME (in a medium tempo sitting nicely between Noone and Condon):

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME (evoking Venuti and Lang, Billie and Lester, or both):

Finally, THE 313 JUMP, whose title has a new pop culture / numerological significance — just Ducky:

See you at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest — Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 23-27.  Of course.

A postscript.  The jazz-scholar part of my being says that I could have written a thousand words on Influences and Echoes, with a long list of names, including Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan, Earl Hines, Frank Melrose, Rod Cless, Frank Teschemacher, Lester Young, Eddie Miller, Wellman Braud, George Wettling, Jo Jones, Sidney Catlett, Milt Hinton . . . but I will let you do the research for yourself — in whatever way offers the most satisfying results.  I’d rather revel in the actual sounds made by Smith, Sample, Doyle, and Skjelbred on a late November day in 2014.

May your happiness increase!

“OLD-FASHIONED LOVE”: GIVING THANKS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 27-30, 2014)

I had a wonderful time at the San Diego Jazz Fest, but that is nothing new.  Paul Daspit, like the jazz patriarch of a very widespread family, treats us to one savory dish after another.  I resigned myself to hard choices but enjoyed all that I saw and heard, beginning with the Yerba Buena Stompers and their new sensation, Miss Ida Blue; the Fat Babies; Ray Skjelbred; Chris Dawson; Jonathan Doyle; Musician of the Year “Gentleman Jim” Buchmann; High Sierra; the New Orleans All Stars of Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones; Hal Smith, Beau Sample; Marc Caparone; Katie Cavera, and other notables.

The band co-led by Tim Laughlin (clarinet) and Connie Jones (cornet, vocal) continues to be very dear to me — swinging, heartfelt, always lyrical.  They were joined by trombonist Doug Finke, pianist Chris Dawson, guitarist Katie Cavera, string bassist Marty Eggers, and drummer Hal Smith.

Here’s a James P. Johnson classic — which always sounds like a hymn to traditional monogamous devotion to me — OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

These players know all one can know about sweet melodic improvisation over a gently infallible rhythm section: I hear Thirties Teddy Wilson small groups, the Vanguard sessions, a dream meeting of Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, and Count Basie.  But it’s not a dream: it happened in front of our eyes and ears. That’s something to be truly thankful for!

I’m grateful to the musicians, to Paul, Myrna Beach Goodwin, Jim McNaughton, Gretchen Haugen, the volunteers, and the gracious people at the Town and Country — for helping us all have such an uplifting experience.

More joy and more videos to come.

May your happiness increase!