Tag Archives: Gene Kelly

BABY SODA JAZZ BAND “AT THE HIGHLINE” (LIVE AND IN PERSON, Oct. 15, 2012)

Yesterday, I wrote a very approving review of the new CD by the BABY SODA JAZZ BAND, which found them at Radegast in Brooklyn with a variety of players including Kevin V. Louis, Jared Engel, Kevin Dorn, Adrian Cunningham, Emily Asher, and Peter Ford —  with guest appearances by Bria Skonberg, Will Anderson, Satoru Ohashi, and Ed Polcer.  Here’s  my blogpost.  (In retrospect, I am sorry that I didn’t call it THAT’S SOME BABY, but it’s too late to change the title.)

Last Monday, October 15, it was raining vigorously in New York City, but I had found out that Baby Soda was going to be playing at the Highline — a combination difficult to resist.  I packed my umbrella and appropriate shoes and headed west.  Oh, I also brought my video camera, tripod, and trusty notebook.  Thus, some fine new performances by Baby Soda . . . for your dining, dancing, and listening pleasure.

Peter Ford led the band from his one-string box bass (which he plays magnificently) and he sang with a sweet, focused surge; Gordon Au played soaring trumpet solos with every risk-taking note in place; Will Anderson built logical clarinet choruses, phrase upon sweet-toned phrase; Emily Asher held it all together with lovely terse trombone lines, then told us the truth when it was her time to solo or sing; Jared Engel kept the rhythm going on both plectrum banjo and lowboy cymbal . . . and the front line passed around one drumstick and a magic woodblock for spare but swinging rhythmic effects.

I don’t ordinarily post incomplete performances . . . but the second half of MUSKRAT RAMBLE was so satisfying that here it is:

As an acknowledgment of the general sogginess, Peter sang I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS — an overstatement, for the band was making people very happy:

ONCE IN A WHILE is, of course, the Louis Hot Five romp:

WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP, mixing nostalgia, romance, and botany, provoked an almost-band vocal (a power-packed two minutes!):

I GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES might have been true, but the band seemed happy to play this melancholy Arlen song:

MILENBERG JOYS — at a brimming tempo, never too fast:

MARIE, warbled by the eminent Miss Asher:

THAT’S A-PLENTY for sure:

JUST A LITTLE WHILE TO STAY HERE, that jazz carpe diem, was not the end of the world:

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS — with no need to grumble about this band:

I went off after this session feeling so elated — Gene Kelly with a knapsack full of heavy video gear, very happy.  Baby Soda can do that to you!  And these performances sound as good at the eighth or ninth playing as they do at the first. I guarantee this.

May your happiness increase.

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ROCKING WITH DENNIS LICHTMAN’S BRAIN CLOUD (at the Jalopy Theatre, March 25, 2011)

Dennis Lichtman’s Brain Cloud is a hot band.

Never mind that its guiding star is Bob Wills rather than King Oliver: don’t let it bother you.

There was a time in American popular music where these “genres” overlapped so happily that Western Swing recordings looked back to Lang and Venuti, sideways to Bennie Moten and later to Charlie Christian. . . and often swung as hard as the Condon Commodores.  Is that sufficient recommendation?

The Brain Cloud takes its name from a Wills song — where having a “cloudy” brain is related to the deep blues — but there’s nothing particularly foggy or ambiguous about the band.

Nice unison arrangements, intense (and not overlong) solos for everyone, and wonderfully on-target singing and impromptu choreography from Miz Tamar Korn.  Dennis plays electric mandolin, clarinet, and fiddle — and chooses the good-natured tempos; he’s joined by Andrew Hall, bass, and one of my dear friends, drummer Kevin Dorn.  Raphael McGregor plays the pedal steel guitar, and Skip Krevens the electric guitar — and sings a few.

At the Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn — where the Brain Cloud had their CD release party on March 25, 2011, Dennis had a few special guests — and I don’t use that term lightly: Noam Pikelny on banjo; Scott Kettner on snare drum and triangle; Matt Munisteri on guitar; Pete Martinez on clarinet.  I was there on camera and tripod, along with JAZZ LIVES’ pal Doug Pomeroy, recording engineer extraordinaire.

Here’s what we saw.

As if to welcome the most finicky of JAZZ LIVES readers into the Brain Cloud tent, Dennis began with Mel Powell’s 1942 MISSION TO MOSCOW — a most interesting chart / composition for the Benny Goodman band.  Hear how it blends what the critics would later call “pre-bop” with sections coming straight from the Ellington “doo-wah, doo-wah” of IT DON’T MEAN A THING:

Then, the moody Wills song the band was named for, BRAIN CLOUDY BLUES:

Another piece of “crossover” music — HAVE YOU EVER BEEN LONELY?  I have the 1931 sheet music which has the face of that famous Western swingster, Harry Lillis Crosby, on the cover:

The mournful BLUES FOR DIXIE, which has neat lyrics:

I may have the title wrong, but I believe this is DARK AS THE NIGHT (BLUE AS THE DAY):

Courtesy of the well-versed Matt Munisteri (who sat in), HONEY FINGERS:

I learned MY WINDOW FACES THE SOUTH from another famous Western swing star, Thomas “Grits” Waller:

Dennis’ story of playing PEACOCK RAG in Hawaii is a rare piece of narrative plumage in itself:

RHYTHM IN MY SOUL is an apt title for this band’s efforts:

A 1939 Broadway song (from a production called YOKEL BOY, no kidding) that became a favorite with Billie Holiday and Summit Reunion, among others — it’s COMES LOVE:

Florists take note!  Here’s WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP (a song I associate with New Orleans bands and — perhaps oddly? — Judy Garland and Gene Kelly):

The sweet Jimmie Rodgers lament, MISS THE MISSISSIPPI AND YOU:

A different variety of sweetness, SUGAR MOON:

The very funny up-tempo narrative of love unfulfilled: girls, don’t ever hang out with a fiddler if he won’t put his instrument in the case for you — HE FIDDLED WHILE I BURNED:

And a closing rouser with all the guests — James P. Johnson’s OLD-FASHIONED LOVE (with the Western Swing changes, you’ll hear):

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What a wonderfully spirited band!  And now you know what band to engage for your daughter’s graduation, your son’s bris, your husband’s retirement, the mutual celebration of someone’s divorce coming through . . .

The only problem with these videos (of which I am quite proud) is that you can’t watch them in the car — except, of course, if you’re a passenger.  May I offer a safer solution?

Clock here: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/braincloud to purchase the BRAIN CLOUD debut CD — which has the same band (Dennis, Tamar, Kevin, Skip, Andrew, and Raphael) performing ten selections: MISSION TO MOSCOW / BLUES FOR DIXIE / BRAIN CLOUDY BLUES / MY WINDOW FACES THE SOUTH / PEACOCK RAG / HE FIDDLED WHILE I BURNED / COMES LOVE / SWEET CHORUS / SUGAR MOON / SITTIN’ ALONE IN THE MOONLIGHT — beautifully recorded, so that you will hear things that the videos can’t capture.

Illustration by Jillian Johnson