To some, Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan is most famous as the spot where George Washington held a farewell dinner for his troops in 1789. Others like it because of their wonderfully extensive beer list and straightforward food — nice servers always, too. Also, it’s a fine place to bring the family if you’re coming or going to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty.
For me, it’s a little-known hot spot of rhythm on Saturday afternoons from 1-4. I came there a few months ago to enjoy the hot music of Emily Asher’s Garden Party Trio [plus guest] — which you can enjoy here — fine rocking music.
But let us live in the moment! Here are four performances by Rob Adkins, string bass; Craig Ventresco, guitar (the legend from San Francisco and a friend for a decade); Mike Davis, cornet AND trombone.
“Trombone?” you might be saying. Mike is very new to the trombone — a number of months — and he was playing an instrument not his own. So he was a little sensitive about my making these performances public (those dangerous eyebrows went up and threatened to stay there) but I assured him that his playing was admirable, even if he was severe on himself. His cornet work is a complete delight. The music Rob, Craig, and Mike make is delicate and forceful, incendiary and serene. You’ll see and hear for yourself on these four performances. Rob swings out with or without the bow, by the way.
LILA, which I associate with a Frank Trumbauer / Bix Beiderbecke OKeh — a song I’ve never heard anyone play live, so thank you!
WHISPERING, which was once one of the most-played songs in this country and is now terribly obscure:
WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, with memories of Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, Andy Secrest, Bix Beiderbecke, and Irving Berlin:
ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND, another Berlin classic, this performance evoking Red Nichols and Miff Mole:
And although it gets me in trouble with some people every time I write it, these three musicians are not necrophiliac impersonators. They know the old records — those cherished performances — intimately and lovingly, and the records might act as scaffolding, but they are not restricted to copying them. (Ironically, this session reminds me more than a little of the lovely impromptu recordings made by Johnny Wiggs and Snoozer Quinn, although those two musicians didn’t have the benefit of a wonderful string bassist of Rob’s caliber in the hospital.)
There will be more to come from this Saturday’s glorious hot chamber music performance. And this coming Saturday (August 1) Rob Adkins has asked trombonist Matt Musselman and guitarist Kris Kaiser to start the good works. I know they will.
May your happiness increase!