Tag Archives: Fats Waller

BILLIE, FATS, AND OTHER IMPROVISERS on eBay

Another small yet momentous eBay surprise: this seller has a mere five items to sell.  Two are intensely interesting to me, and I would assume, also to readers of this blog.

One, a young lady from Baltimore:

BILLIE autograph 4 16

Two, a born spreader of joy:

FATS autograph 4 16

I went to the seller’s site, expecting other marvels.  They are there, but not in the same realm.

Three, the comic film actor James Finlayson:

JAMES FINLAYSON

Four, Groucho’s memorable foil, Margaret Dumont (who, according to Groucho, was a peerless straight woman who had no sense of humor and would ask him, “Julie, why are they laughing?”:

MARGARET DUMONT

Five, a collection of signatures from the OUR GANG gang:

OUR GANG 4 16Jazz and comedy have this much in common: they rely on improvisation and when they work, they catch us by surprise and the surprise is integral to our delight.

May your happiness increase!

CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS (Part Five): REBECCA KILGORE, HAL SMITH, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, ANDY SCHUMM at the CLEVELAND CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, September 11, 2015

This cheerful graphic is seriously at odds with the poignant song and performance that follows, but I love it.

FATS WALLER'S HAPPY FEELING

As you probably already know, Hal Smith (drums, leadership, ideas) and Rebecca Kilgore (song, inspiration) joined with Andy Schumm, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass, for a set at the 2015 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, devoted to lesser-known Fats Waller songs.

The closing song of this set, DIXIE CINDERELLA, is one of my favorites — written for the 1929 revue, CONNIE’S  HOT CHOCOLATES — on a theme that needed and needs to be expressed.  We know the Waller-Andy Razaf BLACK AND BLUE, but DIXIE CINDERELLA, although the singer is apparently just a child, is aimed directly at the same target, racial discrimination.  No, it wasn’t the first song to express outrage and pain at this treatment (I think of PICKIN’ ON YOUR BABY and others) but it is very touching — and this performance captures its poignancy.

Becky’s verse and chorus couldn’t be more delicately lovely . . . and when she comes back, she expresses an intense bluesy wail — making deep sadness swing.

(I want to write, “Isn’t she wonderful?” but if you don’t get that from this performance and her sustained body of work, there’s no point in my saying so.)

And here are the four performances that preceded DIXIE CINDERELLA — each one perfectly poised, casually masterful.  Why isn’t this band on every festival roster?  Where’s the PBS special?  The DVD?  The pop-up book?  Jeepers.

May your happiness increase!

CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS (Part Four): REBECCA KILGORE, HAL SMITH, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, ANDY SCHUMM at the CLEVELAND CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, September 11, 2015

Heart-Vs-Brain

Neurological research tells us that the condition known as infatuation can have serious effects on cognition, that the romantic individual often suffers from the most pleasing kind of attention-deficit disorder.  Fats Waller and Andy Razaf knew this well, and created a delightful song from this pleasant malady, CONCENTRATIN’ ON YOU.

Heart brain i-hate-it-when-you-make-me-look-like-an-idiot

Drummer / scholar Hal Smith, some years back, created a CD called CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS — on which his Rhythmakers featured, among others, the wondrous Rebecca Kilgore.  They held a kind of swing reunion at the Allegheny Jazz Party (now known as the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party) on September 11, 2015.  Hal and Rebecca joined forces for an all-too-brief homage to lesser-known Fats songs — with Andy Schumm, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass.

Here are the three songs that preceded this beauty.

Never has ADD sounded so delightful.

There’s one more gorgeous Fats song to come.  I hope there will be more like this at the 2016 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.

May your happiness increase!

“HERE COMES THE BAND” RAY SKJELBRED AT THE KEYBOARD (SAN DIEGO, NOV. 27, 2015)

Ray, a few days a go

Ray, a few days ago

I think that Ray Skjelbred, in all his varied incarnations, is too expansive for one blogpost at a time, so here — two performances by Ray and his Cubs plus Marc Caparone — is what I offered yesterday.  But the urge to honor Ray while he honors the music continues today, so I present four more performances, solo piano, from that same November 27, 2015, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.

“Solo piano” might be somewhat misleading.  In the past seventy years, there has been some redefinition of what that sounds like.  Of course, it is one person at the keyboard.  But with the advent of three and four-piece rhythm sections, the idea of what a pianist might do when seated alone at those white and black keys has changed.  Once, the pianist’s role was orchestral: think of Hines, Waller, Tatum — then it got pared down — from Wilson onwards to Haig and his descendants.

Ray Skjelbred is not limited to any one conception of playing, but he likes to make the piano a small but legendary orchestra, all by itself.  And in this solo set, he explicitly said that he likes playing “band” repertoire — songs associated with great jazz ensembles — I think not only for their evocative power (think of a magician who can evoke Louis, Don Redman, Bix, Adrian Rollini, Guy Kelly, Jimmie Noone) but for the larger space they offer, the freedom of repertoire that doesn’t arrive with its own set of prescribed conventions.

So here are four  beauties.  Muse on them, delight in them.

A groovy lowdown version of that new dance, THE BALTIMORE:

Don Redman’s NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (revived in this century by Ruby Braff and Jon-Erik Kellso and friends):

THE BLUES JUMPED A RABBIT with a slow, sad, half-spoken vocal.  We’ve all felt that way:

BEAU KOO JACK (which of course means LOTS OF MONEY, thanks to Louis, Don Redman, and Earl):

Observe this man and his musical transformations closely.  He has much to teach us about the poetry of jazz.

May your happiness increase!

“WOULD YOU CARE TO SWING?” (Part Two): JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, MATT MUNISTERI, PAT O’LEARY at THE EAR INN (March 20, 2016)

Through the generosity of the musicians, I present some more glorious music created and recorded at The Ear Inn just this month, on March 20, 2016.  And for those who missed the first helping, here it is: swing happiness with great feeling created by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, mellophone, and more; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

EAR INN 2012

All of this happens when the EarRegulars assemble for one of their Sunday evening raptures (around eight o’clock to around eleven, flexibly) at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

And I now present two more delights from that evening.  (I was going to call this post THE EGGS AND YOU, but the legal staff was not amused, so I dropped the idea.)

I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET is the EarRegulars’ nod to Easter, and to Irving Berlin, and to Fred Astaire, and to Louis (whose 1936 Decca recording of this song also features brightly popping drum accents from Stan King).  No drums here, just floating improvisations:

IF I HAD YOU — very groovy, very mello(w), but also sweet and tender:

There’s more to come.  Bless these musicians and their Spring Street shrine.

May your happiness increase!

“WOULD YOU CARE TO SWING?”: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, MATT MUNISTERI, PAT O’LEARY at THE EAR INN (March 20, 2016)

EAR INN 2012

The EarRegulars and The Ear Inn (the latter at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York — pictured above in October 2012) offer us sweet rewards.  The Inn will soon celebrate its two hundredth anniversary; the EarRegulars are younger but no less beloved.  On Sunday nights at The Ear, a small, gloriously congenial group of musicians gathers to remind us how fine being alive — with ears — can be.  The EarRegulars are led by trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, and on March 20, 2016, Jon was joined by his brilliant colleague, Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone (with the delicious sounds of the mellophone added on later); Pat O’Leary, string bass.

The EarRegulars can tussle in swingtime with the very best, but that Sunday the mood was more gently ruminative: rather than abducting us by force, they wooed and persuaded.  “Hey, do you have a free evening?  Come along with us for sweet swinging music.  You’ll love it.”  As we do.

OUR MONDAY DATE:

BLUE TURNING GRAY OVER YOU:

TEA FOR TWO:

A note about Jon-Erik’s horn, which not only sounds beautiful but has a beautiful personal connection, as he explains: “That horn was my first, and was my dad’s.  A Martin Handcraft Imperial.  About 1934, my dad bought it new as a kid with money earned working in his father’s gas station/garage in Detroit.  I messed it up in high school marching band, and it sat in a closet in my mom’s house all these years.  I recently had it fixed up, to honor my dad’s memory and have it as a memento, and lo and behold, it plays great now!”

It certainly does.  I think we are privileged to share the planet with these musicians, who so generously give of themselves . . . and not on Sunday nights only.  We live in a Golden Age, if we are only wise enough to recognize it.

More to come.

May your happiness increase!

CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS (Part Three): REBECCA KILGORE, HAL SMITH, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, ANDY SCHUMM at the CLEVELAND CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, September 11, 2015

This was such a delightful session that I have been posting one or two songs from it at widely spaced intervals, because I know we will come to the end of the musical largesse.  But don’t despair: we can revisit these glorious performances, and — even better — the 2016 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party will offer even more joy.  I guarantee it.

FATS WALLER'S HAPPY FEELING

Here’s what happened already, for those of you who arrived just now.  And some more delight — a memorable song of rueful farewell which I (and most people) know from Louis’ poignant yet swinging Victor recording.  Becky and the band do the song, Fats, and Louis justice.  I would urge all singers to study her wondrous mixture of tenderness, wit, and swing.  And that band!  Words — for once — fail me:

Oh, how sweet.  A song for lovers who cannot bear to part.

May your happiness increase!