Tag Archives: Flemming Thorbye

WHEN SURRENDER IS TRIUMPH (BENT PERSSON and DUKE HEITGER, 2015)

I SURRENDER, DEAR, is truly a forlorn love song.  Not “You left me: where did you go?” but “Without you I can’t make my way,” which is a more abject surrender to love unfulfilled.

surrender1

And here’s Bing, both in 1931 and 1939 — so you can hear the intense yearning in the words and music:

A very mature version (with John Scott Trotter):

(There are several more Bing-versions of this song, for those willing to immerse themselves in YouTube, including a 1971 performance on the Flip Wilson Show where one line of the lyrics is . . . altered.)

But now to Mister Strong.

On November 6, 2015, this glorious group of musicians — Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Menno Daams, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Robert Fowler, Michael McQuaid, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Malcolm Sked, Nick Ball, Spats Langham did the holy work of evoking Louis Armstrong at the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party.  Here’s my video of this wonderful song — sung and played by the heroic Bent Persson:

Here, for the cinematographers in the viewing audience, is Flemming Thorbye’s video of the same performance — which is much better than mine!

And about two months earlier, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums, gave this beautiful song a treatment that reminds me a little of Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson, not bad antecedents at all:

We associate surrender with defeat, with failure.  If love requires the surrender of the armored ego, that’s a triumph.  And the creation of beauty out of painful yearning, another triumph.  Incidentally, the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party takes place in September; the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party in November.  So no reason for conflict.

May your happiness increase!

“ISTEN VELED, KEDVES BARÁTUNK!” or “GOODBYE, DEAR FRIEND”: FOR JOE MURANYI

Michael Cogswell of the Louis Armstrong House Museum has just told us that the memorial service for Joe Muranyi will take place on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, from 7-10 PM.  It will be held at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, in New York City.  I will provide more details when I know them.

I will have just come back from the Sacramento Music Festival, but I am sure that some JAZZ LIVES readers will be at the memorial service — to honor Joe, to hear good music, and to enjoy his presence through anecdotes and more.

Thanks to the fine swinging Tamas Itzes for the Hungarian farewell-from-the-heart.  And here’s a musical embrace — from Joe, for Joe:

This sweet, sad rendition of NEW ORLEANS features Joe with one of my favorite bands, the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys: Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Ole Olsen, string bass; Michael Boving, banjo / vocal.  It was recorded in 2009 by one of my generous-spirited video comrades, Flemming Thorbye.

Goodbye, Joe!  We celebrate you.

May your happiness increase.

GO, LITTLE BAND! — THE SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS

Some governments know how to support the arts.

In Denmark, “Nyboder” (which means “new houses”) refers to a historic district of yellow row houses in Copenhagen — houses that were once a naval barracks, built in the early seventeenth century during the reign of King Christian IV.  In 2011, the Danish Ministry of Defense created a documentary film about Nyboder.

One of my favorite hot bands — the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys — were invited to play the theme song.  IN PRAISE OF NYBODER (“Nyboders Pris”) sounds like a traditional air, but it was written in 1930.

The Boys are Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, soprano sax; Ole Olsen, bass; Michael Boving, banjo/vocal.  And the fine cinematography is courtesy of Flemming Thorbye, a good friend of JAZZ LIVES:

That song sticks in the memory . . . and here’s one more familiar, the ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (offered at the leisurely Bixish Twenties tempo that Basie and Goodman recalled in the early Forties):

ROYAL GARDEN is also appropriate here because Nyboder is a part of the complex of Rosenborg Castle and the Royal Garden, in the historic part of Copenhagen.  A far cry from South Side Chicago, but Joe Oliver would have admired both performances.  (Incidentally, a vocal chorus on this song is now a rarity, but in its heyday the lyrics were part of the performance: think of the 1931 Ted Lewis recording on which Fats Waller sings.)

For more from the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys, visit them here

— they obviously know how to create beautiful rhythms and melodies!

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.

TOO HOT FOR WORDS: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT’S RHYTHMAKERS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

In 1932 and 1933, a small but determined group of New York jazz musicians took part in a series of recording sessions that might well still be the hottest jazz on record.  Henry “Red” Allen, Gene Krupa, Joe Sullivan, Fats Waller, Pee Wee Russell, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Lord, Happy Caldwell, Zutty Singleton, Pops Foster, Jack Bland, Eddie Condon . . .   The vocalists were Red himself, Fats, Chick Bullock, and the elusive Billy Banks — who, like Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon, specialized in singing in an abnormally high register.

The sessions were recorded for the Banner and Melotone labels and were meant to be sold inexpensively in “dime-stores,” so I imagine that the recording directors didn’t notice or didn’t care just how unfettered the performances were.  And no one seemed to care that “colored” and “white” musicians were playing together, either — a good omen of things to come, albeit slowly.

Many recordings of this time begin sedately, wooing the prospective buyers with a calm exposition of the melody before launching into improvisation in the last third of the disk: not the Rhythmakers.  It’s often been stated that Philip Larkin saw these sessions as one of the high points of the twentieth century, perhaps of Western civilization.  I wouldn’t argue with this position, although Larkin, chronically morose, saw everything else that came after as somehow small, which is a pity.

The superb reedman (here on clarinet) Matthias Seuffert was asked to close off the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party with his own version of the Rhythmakers.  He had help, of course, in Bent Persson (trumpet); Rico Tomasso (using his many voices and having fun vocalizing); David Sager (trombone); Steve Andrews (tenor sax); Philippe Guignier and Keith Stephen (banjo and guitar); Martin Seck (piano); Henry Lemaire (bass); Richard Pite (drums).

BUGLE CALL RAG:

YELLOW DOG BLUES:

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

OH, PETER:

SPIDER CRAWL:

WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

MEAN OLD BEDBUG BLUES:

An ecstatic conclusion to the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, although JAZZ LIVES will have a postscript — courtesy of Flemming Thorbye, who also captured these sets — to come.

“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!

“EAST ST. LOUIS TOODLE-OO”: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS PLAY DUKE ELLINGTON at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

November 5, 2011, Saturday night at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was a highlight — the crowd cheered, with good reason!

With Mr. Nichols at the piano and occasionally exercising his vocal cords, the band included Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, and Bent Persson, trumpets; Alistair Allan, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Wheatley, banjo and guitar; Richard Pite, string bass; Nick Ward, drums; Cecile McLorin Salvant, vocals.

THE MOOCHE (featuring the Jungle Band sound and the earthy percussion of Nick Ward, as well as a beautiful alto excursion by M. Bonnel before Rico masterfully growls us to the finish line):

CREOLE LOVE CALL (beginning with Cecile’s wordless vocal — a la Baby Cox or Adelaide Hall, then the mournful sound of Alistair Allan, the dangerously-muted Rico and the multi-talented Mauro on clarinet.  Hear that reed section!):

Then something riotous, borrowing some of its impetus from — you guessed it, OLD MAN RIVER — the 1930 showpiece OLD MAN BLUES, which is a famous film highlight from the Amos ‘n’ Andy film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK: Alistair Allen becomes Tricky Sam; Mauro Porro does his Harry Carney; Keith Nichols strides out; Jean-Francois Bonnel, on soprano, soars; Bent Persson roars:

The 1932 version of THE SHEIK OF ARABY, indebted far more to Bechet than Valentino, features the usual brilliant suspects — adding Andy Woon (as Cootie), Keith (as himself — with commentary by Rico), and Mauro (as Hodges on soprano) to the solo order:

TRUCKIN’ brings Mr. Nichols back in the vocal spotlight, and there’s a solo spot for Matthias Seuffert on clarinet — with a multi-media opportunity for audience participation later on. (Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro are truckin’ on down on the tiny dance floor.):

IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING) begins with the verse by Keith, then Cecile McLorin Salvant joins in to reiterate the philosophy — best embodied by that searing trumpet section:

An encore, COTTON CLUB STOMP, showed off that this band still had lots of energy. (That’s Jonathan David Holmes in dark shirt and glasses, near the stage on the right):

The Maestro would have been pleased.  See these videos and many more at http://www.thorbye.net.

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

KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Jonathan David Holmes)

Thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Jonathan David Holmes* for the quartet of hot performances that follow — by Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils in a tribute to the territory bands of the late Twenties — going on into the next decade.

Keith had a wonderful complement of swinging sight readers and jazz scholars for this set, as he led from the piano and occasionally burst into song.  They were 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.  This band has a wonderfully rich sound and a deep idiomatic approach, turning this hotel ballroom into a simulation of a local dance hall: you can see some dancers off to the right.

We begin with SPRINGFIELD STOMP (Jonathan), recorded by Lloyd Scott’s Bright Boys, a band based in Springfield, Ohio — that at various times had Bill Coleman, Frank Newton, brother Cecil Scott, and Dicky Wells on the stand :

Early Bennie Moten, before Eddie Durham revolutionized Kansas City jazz, can be heard in the THICK LIP STOMP (Jonathan):

SIX OR SEVEN TIMES (Thorbye) comes from a small group out of the Don Redman / McKinney’s Cotton Pickers group; the familiar opening riff surfaces again, at twice the tempo, in ONE O’CLOCK JUMP:

SOME OF THESE DAYS features Steve Andrews, paying tribute to Coleman Hawkins and the recordings he made with the Ramblers in Holland:

*A few lines about Jonathan — he lives in Lincoln, Lancashire, has studied journalism.  At twenty, he’s a new but dedicated collector and restorer of hot and dance band 78s, a man with his own YouTube channel, and is busily teaching himself both the trumpet and the Charleston.

JAZZ LIVES salutes him and encourages you to visit him on YouTube: mojoman4147 and facebook.com

“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!

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?

SOUL MUSIC: THE SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS (April 2011)

The four gentlemen who make up the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys make more music than a full orchestra — simple yet deep, propulsive yet full of feeling, with arching melodies, deep roots, and more.  They are Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass and soprano saxophones; Michael Boving, banjo, guitar, and vocal; Ole Olsen, bass and clarinet.  The excellent videos were created by Flemming Thorbye, my Scandinavian comrade.

Here’s a lovely, poignant version of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINA, with Bix in mind:

MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR was “written” by W.C. Handy as the ATLANTA BLUES.  Here, this achingly slow version features Frans on soprano saxophone and Michael on one of his irreplaceable deep-inside vocals.  Robert dares the brass Fates and Ole lays down a foundation you could build a cathedral on:

The Boys ask the unanswerable existential question, HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY?

Michael continues in the same searching vein, “How long will I have to wait?” enclosed in this rendition of HESITATING BLUES.  (For passion without artifice, he touches the heart every time!):

JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH ME is perfect for a jazz lecture in a church (a very hip church that has both the SRB and a menorah):

Moving again towards secular matters, the Boys explore BUDDY’S HABIT.  We don’t know what his habit was — but I suspect he couldn’t get enough hot, lyrical jazz of the kind the SRB lays down here:

And finally — the most endearing version of “Mind your own business!” you’ll ever hear — AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS IF I DO:

For those who can’t get enough of proper documentation, the first performance was recorded at the Hotel Christiansminde, Svendborg, Denmark, on April 16, 2011.  The remainder were captured at a jazz lecture given by the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys on April 30, 2011, at Broenshoej Kirke — the oldest church in Copenhagen (from 1180) titled GOSPEL, JAZZ, AND THE SONGS OF THE OPPRESSED. 

To hear more, find the SRB’s latest CD — CHARLESTON MAD — a wonderful effort.    

Thank you, Michael, Frans, Robert, Ole, and Flemming!

P.S.  Flemming Thorbye has excellent taste in hot jazz: visit his YouTube channel, thorbye, for much more enjoyment.

JAZZ ON THE RIVER in COPENHAGEN (May – October 2011)

 

One of my favorite small jazz bands is the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys, pictured above (Michael Boeving, banjo, vocals; Robert Hansson, trumpet, Ole Olsen, bass, clarinet; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax, soprano sax).  They spend a good deal of time on land, but regularly play gigs on the canals of Copenhagen.

Michael sent me information about a series of jazz cruises taking place on Sundays and Thursdays — late afternoon and early evening — with the SRB, Doc Houlind, the Copenhagen Washboard Five, and a band with a delectable name, “Henning Munk and Plumperne.”  The tours set forth from Nyhavn; the trip lasts for ninety minutes and costs 140 kroner.

During July 1-10, there’s also the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, featuring the same round of bands.  For more information, call +45 3296 3000 or visit www.jazzcruise.dk

I am reasonably phobic about small boats, which have a naughty tendency to go up and down without telling me first, but if a small boat had the SRB on it, I would conquer my fears . . .

Here’s a sample from YouTube, brilliantly captured by JAZZ LIVES’ friend Flemming Thorbye — which has a wonderful impromptu moment when Michael Boeving improvises lyrics so that one of the passengers doesn’t get a concussion — watch this even if you will never get to Copenhagen!  (And the SRB has made a number of fine CDs, especially their latest, CHARLESTON MAD, which I’ve praised on this blog.)

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All aboard!  (And watch your head.)

CHARLESTON MAD! (The SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS)

The Scandinavian Rhythm Boys are a deeply rewarding hot band, and they’ve just come out with a new CD, CHARLESTON MAD.  I’ve been excited by the band for a few years now.  And I was delighted to be able to write a short liner note for this new release, which I’ve reprinted below.

I first encountered the SRB on YouTube and was astonished and delighted by their skill and feeling, their wit and casual intensity. I didn’t feel the need for a pianist, a trombonist, a drummer. They swung; they were complete; they lived within the jazz tradition without imitating its recorded artifacts. Even better, they had solved the problem common to musical groups and larger communities (world leaders take note): how to gather individuals with strong personalities and blend them into a cohesive whole without trampling on anyone’s identity.

Who are the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys? I’ll start with the one musician I’ve been privileged to meet: reed master Frans Sjostrom. (I’m especially happy that I’ve learned how to pronounce his name correctly.) Frans’ rhythm is irresistible; his solos are haunting songs. The easy assessment on hearing Frans play the bass sax is to compare him to Adrian Rollini, but why define his creativity in such a narrow way? When I hear Frans play any saxophone I think of Coleman Hawkins; I think of Pablo Casals.

Then there’s Ole Olsen, whose clarinet playing has the deep feeling and down-home ease of Louis Cottrell and the New Orleans masters. On string bass, he supports and guides the group with his simple, neat lines, his woody sound, his strong pulse. His partner is the splendid Michael Boving, whose banjo rings and whispers – never a threat to communal serenity. Ole and Michael could rock a seventeen-piece band and have energy left over after the gig. Michael is also an astonishing singer whose vocals come from his heart. When he sings, “How long will I have to wait?” it has the mournful shouting force of a soul in torment; when he tells you he’s “Charleston mad,” we know it’s true.

Robert Hansson must have daredevils and acrobats in his genetic makeup, because he knows no fear: his spinning, shining lines, light as air, leap and dance high above the crowd. I think of early Bill Coleman, of Doc Cheatham, of Bob Barnard when I hear Robert – and of bright traceries in the twilight sky.

These four players combine to make lovely music, an art that doesn’t show off how difficult its achievements are. Whether they’re playing the classic jazz repertoire of Joe Oliver, Clarence Williams, Lovie Austin, or the ODJB, or Scandinavian pop classics – they spread joy and inspire us to smile, to dance, to exult. What a delicious accomplishment this CD is!

The website for the SRB is http://www.srbjazz.com.  There you can hear two performances from the CD, HESITATING BLUES and CLARINET MARMALADE, and there you can buy the CD.  Or, as Michael Boving suggested, “JAZZCLUB Copenhagen is our best jazz record shop in town.  They have
got the CD and it can be ordered now – your readers can find Jazzclub Copenhagen on Google and it’s there.”

Here are two video clips recorded by our mutual friend Flemming Thorbye — of the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys on a harbor cruise in Copenhagen.  One of the sweetest things about this CD, by the way, is that the SRB create swinging versions of Scandinavian classic pop tunes — giving listeners like myself something new to hum (something new that we can’t get out of our heads no matter how hard we try)!

Here’s TRUBBLE:

And here’s the title tune, with a thrilling, rough-cut vocal by Michael Boving, CHARLESTON MAD:

There are many video clips of the SRB on YouTube, including a few with the esteemed Joe Muranyi, but none of them will substitute for the pleasure of this CD — which I’ve been playing while driving through Central Park, for instance, with my window rolled down and the volume up to respectable (I hope not annoying) levels, sending this Good Hot Music out into the world.  It deserves to be heard!  (One of the best vignettes on this disc is the Richard M. Jones song — I associate it with the Oliver band — I AIN’T GONNA TELL NOBODY — which I’ve never heard with lyrics.  That is the very opposite of the way I feel about this music.)

NEW OLD SONGS (by ANDY AND HIS GANG, March 2010)

Although it’s always a pleasure to hear JAZZ ME BLUES, for instance, listeners like to be surprised as well — not by mere novelty (playing the theme from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE in hot style, for instance) but by songs in the idiom that aren’t overly familiar.  Here are two such performances from the 2010 Tribute to Bix, played by Andy Schumm and his Gang (Andy, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, reeds / vocal; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Vince Giordano, bass sax, tuba, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums). 

The first is WHAT A DAY, taken from a post-Bix session done by Frank Trumbauer:

It’s not the most inventive song — the three-note motif gets repeated cheerfully, almost without letup, but it bounces along.

The second, DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM, is more obscure (Abel Baer-Mabel Wayne) and has a certain oblique similarity to GOOD LITTLE, BAD LITTLE YOU — but it, too, gets a jaunty performance.  In this version, Vince got to take a much-needed breather and his place was taken by Mike Walbridge on tuba.  And Andy pounces on the melody from out of the ensemble in fine Goldkette style!

We have the intrepid Flemming Thorbye to thank for these videos: from the back of the hall, but steady and in clear sound — all that anyone could want and more!

“KEEP HOT!”

In THE SPIRIT OF LOUIS, 2009, not long ago, I posted three video performances where the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys were joined by one of the remaining Elders, clarinetist Joe Muranyi.  (https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/the-spirit-of-louis-2009/)

If those videos eluded you, or the SRB are new to you, here they are, in Toronto, playing BLUE (and BROKEN-HEARTED).  The “Boys” in this incarnation are Hans Jorgen Hansen, bass saxophone and other reeds; Robert Hansson, trumpet; Paul Waters, bass; Michael Bøving, banjo and vocal.  And the nicely-done video is by Flemming Thorbye, who has preserved so much fine jazz on YouTube.   

I find this very affecting.  It takes experience to play with such emotion yet to be so restrained.  As the late Leroy “Sam” Parkins often said, a group like this is in no hurry; they are taking their time.  And they get there!

A package arrived the other day, STARDUST, a CD with two sessions by the SRB — one with Joe Muranyi.  I had been impressed with the YouTube clips I had seen, but they were nothing compared to the sound of the SRB in the recording studio.  For one thing, the studio itself is spacious — I would guess that the musicians get to see each other and hear other without baffles and headphones.  Thus the result is like being very close up to a live performance in a space with ideal acoustics and ambiance. 

And the SRB plays its collective heart out, without strain.  Waters’ bass is propulsive without being pushing; his slap-technique is never monotonous or wooden.  Hansen has a fine, eloquent facility on all his horns, and he is a masterful ensemble player.  Boving is a steady, serene banjoist without the excesses of enthusiasm often connected to that instrument, and he is a compelling singer — idiosyncratic but with a huge, exuberant voice and attack, a heroic vibrato that made it seem as if every song was his own personal, passionate utterance.  And Hansson is simply a magnificent trumpeter — with a casual daring that honors Louis and Bix, without copying their phrases.  His easy mountain-scaling reminded me of Hackett, Cheatham, and Bob Barnard — and it’s supported by a sophisticated harmonic and rhythmic awareness.  Muranyi, the guest star, brings his own amused fervor to the proceedings, whether playing or singing his own gleeful I DIG SATCH.  And the SRB, with or without Joe, is clearly having fun without being self-consciously silly.  They are a wonderfully rewarding band, and this CD is just delightful, with repertoire that goes from Handy to Lyttelton to Jobim and back to Bix-associated tunes without anything sounding forced.  (A prize goes to listeners who recognize the Armstrong ending that brilliantly concludes SMILES!)

The CD is available through the SRB website (www.srbjazz.com.) and email inquiries can be sent to srbjazz@srbjazz.com

And my title?  It’s how Michael Boving signed his little note along with the CD.  The music it contains shows that he and his colleagues are keeping the faith.

“WE’RE ONLY HERE TO HAVE FUN”

I celebrate Flemming Thorbye again for sharing this clip from Danish television (October 2008).  In it, Joe Muranyi talks about Louis Armstrong and plays YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE, warming up with the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys.  Joe’s candid recollections of Louis and WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD are priceless, as is the music.  If American television was like this, I would still have my set.

THE SPIRIT OF LOUIS, 2009

Deep thanks to my fellow jazz cinematographer, Flemming Thorbye — http://www.thorbye.net — who took his video camera to the Kulturhus Brønden, Brøndby Strand, Denmark, on October 25, 2009, to capture three songs by the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys with Joe Muranyi as their esteemed guest star.  The SRB consist of Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Ole Olsen, bass; Michael Bøving, banjo/vocal. 

Perhaps it’s their tempos, their choice of songs, their incredible feeling — but I felt as if Louis was everywhere on that stage.  Not that the players copied his solos — but his intensity and his eloquence.  See if you don’t feel it, too.

First, a stately NEW ORLEANS — even though Boving does his own version of Carmichael’s lyrics, the spirit resonates fervently:

Much beloved of Jimmie Noone and Nat Cole, SWEET LORRAINE:

Finally, a walking SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:

Bless all of them for their willingness to show their feelings.  And what feelings they are!  Visit the SRB website to learn about the band, to hear performances, and to buy their CDs.  (http://www.srbjazz.com) And bless Thorbye for sharing this very moving music.

“ROSES OF PICARDY” AND “SUNDAY”: WHAT FUN!

I’m indebted to Flemming Thorbye, whom I’ve never met, for video-recording these two songs and putting them on YouTube, where they held me transfixed through several viewings.  The performances might look informal, but it takes a great deal of hard-earned mastery to be so casual.  Thorbye captured this band at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport, Iowa, July 2005.

The band was officially billed as Spats Langham and his Rhythm Boys, but this ensemble has a democratic strolling feel: routines are improvised on the stand and no one monopolizes the stage.  Even at a distance, you can see the players grinning at each other’s solos, which is not as common as you might think.

The Anglo-American players — what players! — are Thomas “Spats” Langham, guitar and vocal; Tom Pletcher, cornet; Paul Munnery, trombone; Norman Field, clarinet; Jeff Barnhart, piano; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Nick Ward, drums.

The first song was one of Jule Styne’s earliest — “Sunday,” whose lyrics make the trek through the week to arrive at the one day when romance can flourish.  Bix recorded it as a member of the Jean Goldkette band — with an enthusiastic, cheery vocal by the Keller Sisters and Lynch.  Apocryphally, Lynch was the Sisters’ brother, but that might be too confusing a fact to incorporate.

I know “Sunday” from years of listening to jazz sessions that took place on that day: it was and is a comfortable tune to begin with.  Ruby Braff and Bobby Hackett did it often, and Jon-Erik Kellso continues the tradition now.

After a few cinematographic shudders, we settle down with Pletcher’s firm, nuanced lead — helped immeasurably by neat improvisations from Field and Munnery.  The limber rhythm section moves things along: Sjostrom, as always doing the work of two or perhaps three men, playing rhythm and soloing.  After Tom ends his solo with a “Holiday for Strings” lick, Munnery comes on like a supple Harlem trombonist c. 1931, with easy grace.  Pletcher’s solo outing is full of Bix sound-castles, beautiful architecture, but I would also have you listen closely to Nick Ward’s rocking choke-cymbal (and then his accents behind Field on what Jo Jones used to call “elephants’ nuts”).  Feld is deep into the idiom, but he doesn’t copy anyone’s phrases.  Spats (at Pletcher’s direction) takes a winsome vocal, backed by Barnhart and then Sjostrom.  When Frans solos, it’s easy to get swept away in his pure sound — but on a second listening, one comes to admire the shapes of his phrases, echoing the whole reed tradition.  Jeff Barnhart drifts into some nifty Zez Confrey flourishes in the middle of his solo, paving the way for a fervent but still measured ensemble, driven home by Nick once again.

“Roses of Picardy,” a sentimental favorite from the First World War, is even better.  It was the last tune of the set, and (as often happens) all the horns and the players and their instruments had warmed up.  I can’t connect Bix with this song, but it was a popular favorite of his teens.  Everyone is even more lyrical — Frans, Tom, a very Russellish Field, Langham blending Django and Lang, and Munnery, leading into the final ensemble.  Although the audience drowns out Nick Ward’s break, we know it was there, so that will have to do.  What great ease!

Some discographical comments:

I first heard Nick Ward, Spats Langham, and Norman Field on a Stomp Off CD, THE CHALUMEAU SERENADERS (1394) which also features the reed wizard Matthias Seuffert in the front line.  Spats appeared on only one track — a vocal on a song I associate with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, “Okay, Baby,” but his singing was so wonderful that I sought out the two Lake CDs he had made under his own name — a duet with pianist Martin Litton called LOLLIPOPS (LACD 226) and a small band — also featuring Norman! — THE HOTTEST MAN IN TOWN (LACD 228).  The duet album has its serenely beautiful moments; the small band is cheerfully frisky.  Norman shows off his beautiful alto work as well on these CDs.  And Nick Ward is a quiet powerhouse, rocking the band without getting loud or louder.

I apologize for my not having any Paul Munnery CDs to report on — but a bit of online research suggests that he is a Higginbotham – Nanton man on CD, so I will look for his smaller group, SWING STREET, and his work with a big repertory band, HARLEM.

Jeff Barnhart has made many CDs with multi-instrumentalist Jim Fryer, and he’s also recorded a lovely solo piano CD for Arbors, IN MY SOLITUDE (19324).

I’ve praised Frans Sjostrom elsewhere in this blog and will continue to do so: search out his extraordinary HOT JAZZ TRIO on the Kenneth label (CKS 3417) with Bent Persson, and he also is an essential part of the ensemble on I’M GLAD: TOM PLETCHER AND THE CLASSIC JAZZ BAND (Stomp Off 1353).  Tom has appeared on many earlier vinyl issues with the Sons of Bix — have they made it to CD?  But most recently, he has impresed me deeply on CD, not as a player, but as a writer and annotator of a most special kind.  Many of you will know of Tom’s late father, Stewart (or Stu or even Stew) Pletcher, a wonderfully lyrical player whose most notable recordings were made as a member of Red Norvo’s Thirties orchestra and combos.  I was delighted that the Jazz Oracle label issued THE STORY OF STEWART PLETCHER (BDW 8055) in 2007.  Marvelously researched as always, it gives a thorough picture of Pletcher Sr.’s playing — through rare recordings, of course, from 1924 to 1937.  That would be enough for me.  But I was tremendously moved by his son’s essay on his father.  It is loving yet candid, a tribute to a man much-loved but not always easy to know.  I do not overpraise it by calling it an affecting memoir, honoring both father and son at once.

If you don’t know these players, I hope I’ve given you reason to regret your previous ignorance and repent yourselves of it as soon as possible.

P.S.  The espression “What fun!” comes from Liadain O’Donovan — of Kinvara, Dalkey, New York, and San Francisco — and I hope she doesn’t mind my borrowing it.