I made my monthly pilgrimage to the Radegast Bierhall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last Thursday (May 12, 2011) and had a delightful evening with trumpeter / composer Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers.
The May edition of the GSS had Gordon, Matt Musselman on trombone, Matt Koza on clarinet, Davy Mooney on guitar, Rob Adkins on bass, and Giampaolo Biagi on drums.
The GSS did what they do so well: they swung, they had a wonderful ensemble sound and rocking motion; they created beautiful solos. And in the manner of the late Ruby Braff, Gordon showed himself once again to be not only a soaring trumpeter but a peerless on-the-spot arranger, setting up little duets and exchanges on the bandstand. Here are ten examples of this band’s easy grace.
The first tune comes with its own story. I had fallen in love with the 1922 or 3 bit of manufactured sentimentality for the Old South and Mammy’s nest, TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME, ever since I heard John Reynolds sing it at this year’s Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay. (Pianist Chuck Folds had once written that Vic Dickenson loved to play it, so I hear Vic in my mind’s ear as I write this.)
When the GSS began their first song, I knew I had heard it but didn’t recognize it. It sounded good — and then, as they say in the UK, the penny dropped: it was ‘TUCKY HOME. What a treat! Dig it for yourselves:
Then, a famous “Dixieland” standard — bringing Eddie Condon’s club to Brooklyn, FIDGETY FEET:
Gordon’s musical imagination is anything but narrow (as previous posts have shown): here’s an “Afro-Cuban” composition by Arturo O’Farrill, CAMPINA:
I associate SOUTH with the Bennie Moten band, with California revivalist groups, and a wonderful session pairing Louis and the Dukes of Dixieland:
I don’t know why my mind retains such things, but after the band launched into ABA DABA HONEYMOON with a fine lope, I recalled that Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter had performed it in some MGM musical — and that its cheerfully silly lyrics delineate (politely) the romance of the chimpanzee and the monk. You figure it out while I listen to the GSS:
Cross-species love having its happy ending, the GSS could move to less biologically-fraught terrain wittheir tribute to the 1927 Hot Seven masterpiece, POTATO HEAD BLUES (whose title caused such scholarly commotion on this blog some months back). Not only is it an engaging composition on its own, but the ensemble version of Louis’s solo is a real delight:
Here’s one of Gordon’s characteristically winding originals — it doesn’t always land where you think it might, which is a lovely thing. The title is SO MUCH FOR LOVE, and I hope Gordon will set lyrics to this melody (he’s a fine lyricist, too):
A night with the Grand Street Stompers wouldn’t be complete without one of their excursions into Disney territory — here, ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, which swings from the start. Catch the impromptu brass riff behind Matt Koza’s second chorus:
For Louis or Fats Domino? I couldn’t tell, but BLUEBERRY HILL still works, more than sixty years later, especially with plunger mute:
And an old-time jam session favorite to end this posting, I NEVER KNEW:
Its title is slightly off, because the Grand Street Stompers surely know . . . .
I believe that they will be at Radegast on June 15, for a CD release party — not to be missed!