The received wisdom is that long-playing records (and then CDs) allowed jazz musicians “room to stretch out,” and in many cases that is a boon. But I admire those musicians of all styles who can “get it done” in two choruses, smile, and step back.
Here’s a wonderful example: Bent Persson, cornet, and Goran Eriksson, banjo and stop-time percussive effects, romping through WEARY BLUES in the finest Louis Armstrong-Johnny St.Cyr manner, a performance that feels like the most rewarding dinner on a plate the size of a saucer: compressed, heated, expert:
It’s supposed to rain and be gray for the next three days . . . but in my heart the Louis-sun is blazing bright.
In these most tempestuous times, we need some relief, and the phenomenon known as the Weatherbird Jazz Band offers it — hot jazz with passion and precision. And although I wouldn’t want to move permanently to 1928 Chicago, these musicians make the trip easy and rewarding.
The marvelous players and occasional singers are Bent Persson, trumpet or cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet or soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo or alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums. They don’t rush; they aren’t noisy; they have a deep dark authentic groove over which luminous soloists soar.
ST. JAMES INFIRMARY:
ORY’S CREOLE TROMBONE:
Over the past ten months, I’ve posted more than two dozen videos of this reassuringly groovy hot band: you can enjoy them here, here, here, here, here, and here. I don’t know what the CDC says, but if you are suffering from the news, be assured that this band is systemically healing, an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-nausea, anti-fungal, anti-whatever-the-hell-might-be-ailing-you-at-the-moment panacea, cure, and solution. Or your money back. I speak from experience: playing FUNNY FEATHERS four times in a row has made me feel better about life . . . try it!
Seasonal Hot migrations: the Weatherbird Jazz Band has just paid us another welcome visit. (I’ve posted perhaps two dozen of their performances, which are both gratifying and easy to find.)
Here are six more beautiful performances, mostly celebrating the 1925-28 sides that Louis Armstrong and friends created in Chicago, with celebratory glances at Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and the NORK.
The Weatherbirds, for these sessions, are Bent Persson, trumpet or cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet or soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo or alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums. You’ll notice that I refrain from explaining and explicating: this music needs no subtitles, just listeners open to joy.
MY MONDAY DATE:
TIN ROOF BLUES:
BLACK BOTTOM STOMP (today is Mr. Morton’s birthday):
The Weatherbird Jazz Band is slightly mysterious — where did they come from? where are they off to now? But I know two things: they have had a regular migratory pattern: twice in April, once in May, in June, and they’re back!
The marvelous players are Bent Persson, trumpet or cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet or soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo or alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums. And here are four more beauties — compact, hot, intense and pensive, in love with the tradition but seriously personal.
Hes’s the hottest man in town, you know:
I’ll have you to remember:
A blues with many titles, such as THOSE DRAFTIN’ BLUES and STORYVILLE BLUES, with associations to Art Hickman and Bunk Johnson:
and a helpful suggestion about how to get through 2020:
The Weatherbirds will be back soon. I will watch the skies.
I don’t know anything about migratory patterns between suburban New York and Sweden, but when the Weatherbird Jazz Band flies by, our spirits lift. Sightings earlier this year were here and here and here.
So here they are with more hot music: intense, focused, playful, exact, and delicate. You can invent your own words of praise as you listen. And the marvelous players and occasional singers are Bent Persson, trumpet or cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet or soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo or alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums.
The Weatherbirds are eager to please, even when technology arbitrarily subdivides the impulse in two:
and more, because it would be cruel to leave us there (and Goran’s rolling-and-tumbling alto solo is worth hearing twice):
a gorgeously somber 1928 BASIN STREET BLUES with the appropriate vocals:
Mister Morton’s THE CHANT with some (perhaps) early-Thirties touches:
a too-brief trip to CHINATOWN by the band-within-a-band:
SOME OF THESE DAYS, with the verse in the middle — it’s only right:
HIGH SOCIETY, based on a Hot Chorus, a thrilling duet for trumpet and piano:
and, to close this offering, a delightful CHICAGO BREAKDOWN:
Everyone I know, and I include myself, is slightly unhinged these days: you can name the emotions, so drastic measures are needed. I can’t send homemade soup through the ether, so here’s another infusion of warmth and energy from the Weatherbird Jazz Band, featuring Bent Persson, trumpet and cornet; Kaj Sifvert, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano, vocal; Goran Lind, string bass; Goran Eriksson, banjo and alto saxophone; Sigge Dellert, drums.
AFTER YOU’VE GONE starts in a pensive mood, and then heats up:
Look out — it’s the WILD MAN!
Only a short leap from WILD MAN to Bechet’s brightly-colored WILD CAT BLUES, featuring Tomas:
I hope your ROAD isn’t LONESOME:
I’ve posted other videos by another edition of the Weatherbirds here and here — for your dining and dancing pleasure. And Christophe from Lugano suggests that the supply is not yet depleted, so hold on tight.
My dear jazz friend Christophe from Lugano, who happily answers to the sobriquet “Swiss Kriss” just sent me a present, a video-performance by the Weatherbird Jazz Band of Mister Morton’s WOLVERINE BLUES, which he asks that I share with you, as an antidote to isolation. (The photograph below is from the cover of their Stomp Off Records lp, which may still be available through that company. Inquire here.
The Weatherbirds (named for that famous Louis-Earl duet) flourished about forty years ago, but many of their members are thriving and continuing to make music — chief of them being Bent Persson, trumpet, who is also a Louis scholar making black marks on the page come alive. You’ll hear it in his second solo chorus, which is his interpretation of a chorus Louis played that was notated in 1927 for the “Fifty Hot Choruses” folio.
But here’s some hot music! The other Birds are Sigge Dellert, drums; Goran Eriksson, banjo; Goran Lind, string bass; Ulf Johansson Werre, piano; Tomas Ornberg, reeds; Kaj Sifvert, trombone. And here they are, making music and raising our collective spirits:
This post is also for Laura Wyman, who knows all about being a Wolverine. And there will be more music from this terrific band to come.
Thanks to Claes Jansson, we have these performances by the hot, expert Swedish band KUSTBANDET — a band with fifty years of experience! — recorded in concert on November 22, 2013.
The members are Goran Eriksson, Jon “Jonte” Högman, and Klas Toresson, reeds; Jens “Jesse” Lindgren, trombone / vocal; Bent Persson, Fredrik Olsson, trumpet; Peter Lind, trumpet / vocal; Claes Göran Högman, piano; Hans Gustavsson, guitar / banjo; Bo Juhlin, tuba, string bass; Christer “Cacka” Ekhé, drums / vocal.
Onstage with OVER IN THE GLORYLAND into BIRMINGHAM BREAKDOWN:
More early Ellington with THE MOOCHE:
For Luis Russell, Red Allen, and the New Orleans boys in New York, SUGAR HILL FUNCTION:
Then, some Louis-inspired hot music:
AFTER YOU’VE GONE:
YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY (thanks, Peter!):
YOU RASCAL YOU (with mock-threats from Peter and Jesse, who mean no one any harm):
and swing for saxophones with LADY BE GOOD:
What a band! (How do you say, “Romp it, boys!” in Swedish? No matter.)
Some listeners believe jazz can be seen as a series of grassy plots, each sealed off and protected an electrical fence. Thus, the Bad doesn’t infect the Good, the Impure is quarantined from the Truth.
“Old school” bands play GRANDPA’S SPELLS; “swing bands” play DICKIE’S DREAM; “modern” bands play “‘ROUND MIDNIGHT.”
This artifice was created and encouraged by writers, who believed that art could be conceptualized as a straight line, a flow chart, moving towards Progress or Decline. Pres begat Bird who begat Trane . . .
Most musicians I know smile wearily when confronted with these stifling divisions. They know that the distance between King Oliver and Bird doesn’t even exist. In the Forties and Fifties, players trooped into recording studios to make music under these pretenses: HOT MEETS COOL, SWING MEETS DIXIE, and DIXIELAND GOES MODERN (real titles for actual recording dates). But they knew that the names were simply journalistic devices to package music for consumers and to sell products: the music itself was not altered or harmed by the names.
Thirty and more years ago, I saw two discs in a used record store, by a French band I had never heard of, the ANACHRONIC JAZZ BAND.
From “anachronism,” I knew something interesting was happening, and even though my five years of French had eroded, I could figure out that this band was doing something deliciously unusual: playing “bop” and “modern” material in older styles — taking a Charlie Parker line and playing it in the style of a 1926 Jelly Roll Morton recording.
I bought the records in the spirit of “What could possibly go wrong?” — and they were immensely rewarding.
See for yourself in this 1977 performance of ANTHROPOLOGY:
First, you can’t miss the high good spirits here and the immense expertise: the Anachronics are deeply swinging and wonderfully precise but never stiff.
Second, the whole notion is hilariously wonderful, but not in the often mean-spirited way that comedy / parody / satire often operate (think of Chubby Jackson’s DIXIELAND STOMP, where “modern” musicians play “Dixieland” as a messy amateurish creation). And it is deeply inquisitive — asking questions of jazz and its “styles” — rather than presenting a production of KING LEAR where everyone wears jeans and speaks in rap cadences.
The Anachronics aren’t satirizing Dizzy and Bird, Morton and Henderson. Rather, their music is intensely witty play: “What would happen if we brought this composition into this world? How could we honor both of them and have a rousing good time while doing it?”
The AJB began in 1976 and rolled along to great acclaim until 1980. Although they apparently were based in the past, they were thrillingly original: no one was doing what they did! But this post isn’t a nostalgic look back at something rich and rare that is now gone.
I am delighted to write that there is a new AJB CD, just out, and it is a rich banquet of sounds, feeling, and ideas. Recorded in January 2013, it is called BACK IN TOWN — true enough!
The repertoire comes — initially — from Parker, Rollins, Shearing, Monk, Paul Desmond, Mingus, Chick Corea, Clyde Hart, Miles, Quincy Jones — with a few clever originals by AJB members. The dazzling musicians on this disc are Philippe Baudoin, piano; Marc Richard, clarinet / alto; Patrick Artero, trumpet; Pierre Guicquéro, trombone; André Villéger, clarinet / alto / tenor; Jean-François Bonnel, clarinet / C-melody; Daniel Huck, vocal, alto; François Fournet, banjo; Gérard Gervois, tuba; Sylvain Glévarec, drums; Göran Eriksson, recorder. (Arrangements by Baudoin, Richard, Artero.)
The soloing and ensemble work couldn’t be better, and each track is simultaneously a series of small delightful explosions and a revelation. More than “listening to a record,” I felt as if I were perusing a collection of short stories . . . art that reveals itself more and more, a matter of shadings and gleams, on each hearing.
It has become an invaluable disc for me, and I hope it is the first of many to come. See and hear for yourself: the Anachronic Jazz Band is truly back in town, and we are very grateful.
Here’s a sample of their recent work, captured by Jeff Guyot in July 2013: COOKIN’ THE FROG:
One idyllic version of early twentieth-century modernism is the intersection of great artists considering the same theme. Here, the lost paradise of 1933 where Bing Crosby and Coleman Hawkins could each rhapsodize beautifully on the same song. It was THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG — a sweet romantic rhapsody of love’s fulfillment by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston, a Crosby hit from the film TOO MUCH HARMONY. Here’s Bing’s version, where sensuality and delight combine:
That same year, a small band of Coleman Hawkins, Henry “Red” Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, Hilton Jefferson, Horace Henderson, Bernard Addison, John Kirby, and Walter Johnson devoted themselves to the same theme:
Nearly ninety years later, the Harlem Jazz Camels pay tribute to the song, to love in swingtime:
This performance (recorded by the very gracious “jazze1947”) comes from Aneby, Sweden, on Feb. 7, 2012. The Camels are Bent Persson, trumpet; Göran Eriksson, alto / clarinet; Stephan Lindsein, trombone; Claes Brodda, clarinet / baritone / tenor; Lasse Lindbäck. string bass; Ulf Lindberg, piano; Sigge Delert, drums; Göran Stachewsky. guitar / banjo.
Play these performances for anyone who thinks the music of the Thirties monochromatic. Perhaps this music might enlighten someone who thinks that musicians reinventing the music of nearly eighty years ago are engaging in “nostalgia.”
Through the generosity of the musicians and of “jazze1947,” I can share with you two splendid performances by the Harlem Jazz Camels (swinging friends since 1978) — caught live on February 7, 2012, at the Aneby, Sweden, concert hall. Led by pianist / arranger Ulf Lindberg, the Camels feature Bent Persson, trumpet; Goran Eriksson, alto, clarinet; Claes Brodda, clarinet, baritone, tenor sax; Stephan Lindsein, trombone; Lasse Lindback, string bass; Sigge Delert, drums; Goran Stachewsky, guitar and banjo.
Here is HEARTBREAK BLUES (evoking Coleman Hawkins and Henry “Red” Allen), a melancholy rhapsody:
And — in honor of Louis — a romping THEM THERE EYES:
Through the generosity of the musicians and of “jazze1947,” here are five more marvelous performances by the Harlem Jazz Camels (a group of swinging friends since 1978) — caught live on February 7, 2012, at the Aneby, Sweden, concert hall.
I have posted SISTER KATE from this group — and I must apologize for a slight inaccuracy: the group was led by pianist / arranger Ulf Lindberg, but I hope that he will forgive my hero-worship of Bent. And if readers want to take up a collection to send me to Sweden so that I might apologize to Ulf in person for the slight, I would not object too vigorously.
Besides Ulf and Bent, the Camels are Goran Eriksson, alto, clarinet; Claes Brodda, clarinet, baritone, tenor sax; Stephan Lindsein, trombone; Lasse Lindback, string bass; Sigge Delert, drums; Goran Stachewsky, guitar and banjo.
Let’s start with the 1933 ONCE UPON A TIME, composed by Benny Carter — the glorious trumpeter admired by none other than Louis — for a record date with Chu Berry, Floyd O’Brien, Max Kaminsky, Teddy Wilson, Ernest “Bass” Hill, Lawrence Lucie, and Sidney Catlett — rendered nobly by the Camels:
Some early Ellingtonia — SATURDAY NIGHT FUNCTION:
James P. Johnson’s rollicking and inspirational AIN’T CHA GOT MUSIC (patterned after a Henry “Red” Allen recording):
I believe that the next song is I’M RHYTHM CRAZY NOW (a Horace Henderson arrangement scored for a slightly smaller band — originally featuring Red, Hawkins, and Dicky Wells) — to great effect:
And the delights conclude (for this post) with an evocation of PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY — as recorded by Hawkins, Carter, George Chisholm, Django Reinhardt and other swinging souls in 1937:
Gorgeous hot music. I’d fly four thousand miles for these Camels!
I wish I could play trumpet like Bent Persson. Or at least I wish I could hear him on a much more regular basis — which is why this video from Sweden both satisfies and tantalizes.
Here is Bent with a group — his Harlem Jazz Camels — friends who have played together since 1978. They’ve made several CDs, but here they are in concert in the Aneby (Sweden) concert hall, just two days ago. I am very grateful to the mysterious “jazze1947” for posting this on YouTube, and you will be, too. The band is Goran Eriksson, alto, clarinet; Claes Brodda, clarinet, baritone, tenor sax; Stephan Lindsein, trombone; Lasse Lindback, string bass, Ulf Lindberg, piano; Sigge Delert, drums; Goran Stachewsky, guitar and banjo.
Their inspiration for this particular performance is a rare but notable 1933 session featuring Henry “Red” Allen and Coleman Hawkins — the two sides were rejected at the time but test pressings survived of SISTER KATE and SOMEDAY SWEETHEART. The other musicians were Dicky Wells, Russell Procope, Bernard Addison, Don Kirkpatrick, Bob Ysaguire or John Kirby, and Walter Johnson.
Bent and the Camels do not copy the famous solos — but keep the swinging ambiance of the original session. Hear for yourself:
“jazze1947” even shows up in New York City in search of the real thing: you can visit his channel here. With luck, perhaps he recorded more from this wonderful concert.
Thanks once again to Franz Hoffmann, this more contemporary treasure — the Swedish band KUSTBANDET performing its own very rocking evocation of the 1929-30 Luis Russell Orchestra (original stars Henry “Red” Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, Charlie Holmes, Albert Nicholas, Pops Foster, Paul Barbarin) playing the living daylights out of W.H. Tyers’ atmospheric piece, PANAMA:
Franz dates this as September 27, 1985 for NDR-TV, and thinks the personnel is Claes-Goran Faxell, Bent Persson, Ola Palsson, trumpet; Jens Lindgren,trombone; Goran Eriksson, Jan Akerman, Erik Persson, reeds; Ake Edenstrand, piano; Hans Gustafsson, banjo; Bo Juhlin, brass bass, bass trombone; Goran Lind, bass; Christer Ekhe, drums.
Bent Persson plays Red Allen; Jens Lindgren does Higgy. I don’t know the reed section by name, or else I would surely credit them. Two questions: can anyone read the autograph / inscription on Goran Lind’s bass? It looks like a real treasure. And it may just be my point of view, but I am astonished at how serene . . . calm . . . impassive this television audience is. One fellow, at about 2 minutes in, to the bottom right of the frame, is fanning himself. That reaction I understand.
I never leap to my feet and shout YEAH! because I have a video camera in my hand, but this performance made me want to do just that.
Jazz has never quite shaken the notion that newer is better. Musician C, born in 1956, is an improvement on B, born in 1936, and we are affectionate about A, born in 1916, while casting kindly eyes at his shortcomings. And these assumptions creep into the critical language, as if playing a “harmonically sophisticated” chord was more “advanced” than a seventh. Perhaps this ideology has something to do with our desire for novelty, our short attention spans — listeners getting bored with perfection. Yes, artists do stand on the shoulders of previous generations — but such reasoning is ultimately limiting.
As my counter-truth, I present four performances by the Anachronic Jazz Band, recorded at the Nice Jazz Festival on July 16, 1977. The AJB hasn’t existed since 1980, which is a pity: we always need such romping enlightenment. Its members were Patrick Artero, trumpet; Daniel Barda, trombone; Marc Richard, André Villéger, Daniel Huck, clarinet; Philippe Baudoin, piano; Patrick Diaz, banjo; Gérard Gervois, brass bass; Bernard Laye, drums. Goran Eriksson sits in on recorder on the third performance.
The band’s comic spirit is witty and knowing; the music isn’t mean-spirited or broadly knockabout. You’ll see!
Heartfelt evidence that “progress” in jazz is illusory; rather, art is a Mobius strip, where beginnings and endings cease to matter. ASK ME NOW would have gladdened the hearts of both Thelonious and Louis. Bless every one of them.
Louis Armstrong understandably provoked awe, admiration, protectiveness, gratitude, reverence. And those who know his life will think without hesitation of the people who cherished him: his beloved wife Lucille, his manager Joe Glaser, his friend Jack Bradley, recently celebrated in The New York Times for his astonishing collection of sacred artifacts.
But Gosta Hagglof, perhaps less famous, has done heroic things to keep Louis’s music alive. Gosta is an Armstrong scholar and aficionado as well as an enterprising record producer. On his own Ambassador label, he has created a wonderful multi-disc edition of Louis’s 1935-49 recordings, primarily for Decca, including alternate takes, airshots, and film soundtracks. Much of this material is not only new to CD but new to everyone. And it’s beautifully annotated and carefully speed-corrected: the ideal! On his Kenneth label, its label imitating the Gennett company’s baroque whorls, he also made it possible for us to hear Bent Persson’s awe-inspiring recreations and imaginings of Louis’s 1927 Hot Choruses and Breaks.
With typical generosity, Gosta has just issued / re–issued a Doc Cheatham CD tribute to Louis, a gem. It’s called THE EMINENCE, VOLUME 2: DOC CHEATHAM: “A TRIBUTE TO LOUIS ARMSTRONG,” and nothing in that title is hyperbolic. (Kenneth Records CKS 3408)
Cheatham is someone I think of as jazz’s Yeats, getting wiser and deeper and subtler as he grew older. Brassmen have a hard time because trumpets and trombones require such focused physical energy and skill just to get from one note to another with a pleasing tone. Doc truly did seem ageless, pulling airy solos out of nowhere, then embarking on weirdly charming vocals that mixed crooning, speech, and bits of Wallerish comedy. He hasn’t been well represented on compact discs, and this one is a particular pleasure because his Scandinavian friends, both reverent and playful, inspire him to majestic yet casual playing and singing. Those players, as an aside, are Gosta’s stock company — many of them playing nobly behind Maxine Sullivan in her finest late recordings (five compact discs worth!), the ambiance being somewhere between the Teddy Wilson Brunswicks and the Fifties John Hammond Vanguard sessions.
The original sessions from 1988 and 1989 also feature wonderful playing — piano and Eb alto horn — and arrangements by Dick Cary, someone who knew Louis well, having been the first pianist in the All-Stars at the irreplaceable Town Hall Concert. (Gosta asked Cary to replicate his original piano introduction to “Save It Pretty Mama,” which Cary does here. It is immensely touching.) The gifted but less-known pianist Rolf Larsson shines on two songs not originally issued. The gutty, loose trombone work of Staffan Arnberg is delightful, and the reed section — Claes Brodda, Goran Eriksson, Erik Persson, and Jan Akerman are all original, fervent players. I heard hints and echoes of Pete Brown and Charlie Holmes, of Herschel Evans, early Hawkins and Hodges, but they have their own styles, a swinging earnestness. The rhythm section, collectively featuring Mikael Selander, guitar; Olle Brostedt, bass, guitar; Goran Lind, bass, and Sigge Dellert, drums, rocks in a gentle, homemade, Thirties fashion. I imagine everyone in shirtsleeves. I especially enjoyed the hardworking lyricism of Selander, combining the great acoustic guitar styles of the period without imitating anyone: he has a Reinhardt eloquence without entrapping himself in QHCF cliches.
The sessions embraced the expected hot tunes: “Swing That Music,” “Our Monday Date,” a version of “Sweethearts on Parade” with Cary’s alto horn and Cheatham’s trumpet in jousting tandem, “I Double Dare You,” and “Jeepers Creepers,” all essayed with the looseness you would expect from expert players who love to take chances. The Swedish All-Stars play with daredevil ease — I don’t mean high notes or technical displays — but we hear them experimenting with the possibilities of the songs and the ensembles. The result is impromptu rather than overly polished, and I can imagine the musicians grinning triumphantly at the end of each take, as if to say, “Hey! We did it!” or the equivalent.
But the best performances here are painted in deep romantic, yearning hues. “Confessin,” a trio performance for Doc, Selander, and Lind, is the very epitome of tenderness, as is “I’m in the Mood for Love,” complete with the rarely-heard verse. “Save It Pretty Mama” has Cheatham at his most convincing as a singer; he pours his heart into “A Kiss To Build A Dream On,” a rueful “I Guess I’ll Get the Papers and Go Home” (the song with which he concluded his Sunday brunch performances at Sweet Basil for years), a slow “Dinah” and “Drop Me Off At Harlem,” “Sugar,” and “That’s My Home.” We often associate Louis with bouncy numbers, with “Tiger Rag” and “Indiana,” but Cheatham draws on his awareness of Louis the romantic, early and late.
Especially in these performances, Cheatham and his young colleagues get at Louis’s huge heart — his wistfulness, hopefulness, and deep feeling, without ever overacting. Many of these slow performances left me with a lump in my throat. The results are music to treasure. Visit Classic Jazz Productions (http://www.classicjazz.eu) for more details.