Because of the wonderful photographs that Charles Peterson and others took, some of my readers will be able to visualize the bandstand at Jimmy Ryan’s sixty-five years ago — crowded with hot musicians jamming on, say, BUGLE CALL RAG, with every luminary in New York City eagerly improvising at the peak of their powers.
Now imagine that scene with additions. A wondrous singer — let’s say Connee Boswell, Lee Wiley, or Mildred Bailey is joining in for a few numbers.
And, if your imagination can hold this, Django Reinhardt and some members of his group are also there, off to the side, having a fine time. Bob Wills is coming through the door, too.
Did this happen? If it did — in New York City, circa 1945 — it hasn’t been documented. But something very much like it happened last Friday, October 15, 2010, in Cafe Borrone, which sits happily in Menlo Park, California.
Cafe Borrone has — through the generosity and prescience of its owner, Roy Borrone — having Clint Baker’s All-Stars as its Friday night jazz band. For twenty years of Fridays, mind you. And the 15th was a twentieth-anniversary party.
And “SFRaeAnn,” who is Rae Ann Berry on her driver’s license, was there to record this occasion. Clint’s regulars were in attendance, but so were some instrumentally-minded friends. As was the eloquently hot Gypsy-tinged small group Gaucho, and New York’s own wonder, Tamar Korn. The musicians (collectively) are Clint Baker, playing everything expertly; Robert Young, saxophone; Leon Oakley, cornet; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar; Tom Wilson, trombone; Jim Klippert, trombone; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion; Mike Groh, guitar; Ari Munkres, bass, J. Hansen, drums, Riley Baker, drums.
A word about GAUCHO — a group I’ve seen in San Francisco (and I’ve also listened happily to their recordings): many “Gypsy swing” groups that loosely resemble this one specialize in superhero-speedy readings of the Reinhart-Grappelly repertoire. In such cases, I agree with my friend Anthony Barnett when he proposes a moratorium on such endeavors. In my case, all I want is not to be pummelled with notes. But GAUCHO is superbly different. The overall affect is superficially of music you’d hear on the porch or in the living room, but that feeling is undercut by the instant awareness that no amateur musicians ever, ever sounded this good. Its two guitarists play and swap roles with grace and a stylish casualness. Rob Reich makes the accordion an instrument I would happily listen to, as he spins out wandering lines (I was traumatized by an accordion as a child.) And Ari Munkeres brings together Pops Foster and Paul Chambers very adeptly. The overall feeling brings together Teddy Bunn and Western swing and a whole host of refreshing improvisations on various subtle, profound models.
Here’s part of a delightful EXACTLY LIKE YOU, where Tamar and Leon converse:
And a full-fledged YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY — where Tamar’s eyes and facial expressions reveal a great comic actress, singing the twisty lyrics at a rapid clip. (Not only that: she sings the verse twice!) This performance becomes a series of witty conversations and overlapping monologues, most fetchingly:
How about SOME OF THESE DAYS, with an incredible outchorus where instruments and Tamar (the Mills Sister) blend so exuberantly:
Here’s a delicate, unaffected I’M CONFESSIN’ — a performance where Ari’s arco bass, Leon’s Ziggy Elman – Harry James emoting, Robert’s sweet alto, and more theoretically disparate elements come together to create something terribly moving:
The simplistic philosophy of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING remains true — complain too much and even the dog walks out of the room — but what catches my eye in the first minute of this performance is that an audience member has asked Tamar to dance (unless I am missing the essential subtext). At what other site do band members dance with the audience? I ask you! And don’t miss the vocal duet between Tamar and Jim Klippert, a man who is having just too much fun to keep it to himself:
Tamar sat out PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE (perhaps the jitterbugging had worn her out for the moment?) and Clint took the vocal, with solos from everyone:
And the evening ended with a romp nothing short of ecstatic on BILL BAILEY (or, as Joe Wilder calls it, THE RETURN OF WILLIAM BAILEY), which should have you grinning for days:
I’m thrilled that this music was created and that the apparently tireless Rae Ann Berry saved it for us and for posterity. Bless Roy Borrone, all the musicians, and our own devoted videographer, too.
P.S. And I have it from good authority that GAUCHO’s new CD has Miss Korn and Mister Oakley in attendance — with some songs that Tamar has written lyrics for. I check the mailbox every day . . . and will let you know when it arrives!