Tag Archives: Guy Lombardo

“FOX TROT, VOCAL CHORUS”: JIM FRYER, EVAN ARNTZEN, BRIAN NALEPKA with TERRY WALDO, JAY LEPLEY, JOHN GILL, JON-ERIK KELLSO at FAT CAT (Jan. 29, 2017)

Even if they don’t have trained voices, the instrumental soloists I know tend to be really convincing singers, often with a loose, sleeves-rolled up approach to the song, which, by its casualness, conceals a real understanding of melody, rhythm, and how to “sell a song.”  (And sometimes the most under-documented singers are the most affecting: Basie, muttering his way through HARVARD BLUES, Hawkins emoting on LOVE CRIES, Carter wooing us with SYNTHETIC LOVE.)

Musicians know that bursting into song delights an audience (if it’s not offered on every performance) and it rests tired lips and hands. Here are three wonderful examples from a Sunday afternoon session by Terry Waldo, Jon-Erik Kellso, Jim Fryer, Evan Arntzen, Brian Nalepka, John Gill, and Jay Lepley — January 29, 2017).  I will point out that everyone in this band has been known to warble a chorus, but today I am concentrating on Messrs. Fryer, Arntzen, and Nalepka — all of whom have sung in performance and the recording studio.

And since so much of American pop music of the last century and more takes romance as its subject, here are three very different love songs: the first a chronicle of deprivation (“I’d love to join the fun but they bar me.”) the second a narrative of how serendipity made for great love (“I kept buying china / Until the crowd got wise.”) and the last a happy description of mutual adoration (“My baby don’t care who knows it.”)

Jim Fryer chronicles romantic woes, Lombardo / Louis style on SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE:

Evan Arntzen reminds us of Bing, 1931, incidentally, with I FOUND A MILLION DOLLAR BABY (IN A FIVE-AND-TEN CENT STORE):

and Brian Nalepka tells the truth (ask Mary Shaughnessy), MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME:

These frolics happen most Sunday afternoons at Fat Cat, 75 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York City (take the #1 train to Christopher Street / Sheridan Square).

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC FOR TONIGHT: RUBY BRAFF / DON REDMAN

happy-new-year

On December 31, I have nothing against Guy Lombardo’s rendition of AULD LANG SYNE, part of the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence.  And Louis adored the sound of that band, so who am I to scoff?

But I secretly prefer this version of the Scottish song we use to bid farewell to one moment in chronological time and (perhaps with trepidation) welcome the next.

The people who ran Bethlehem Records decided — wisely — to have a New Year’s Eve party (December 31, 1954 – January 1, 1955) and make it a paying gig, recording the musicians as well, who were Ruby Braff, trumpet; Ed Hubble, trombone; Sam Margolis, tenor saxophone; Dick Katz, piano; Gene Ramey, string bass; Izzy Sklar, drums.  (I note with some pride that I saw, heard, and even spoke with everyone in that band except for Mr. Sklar during my time as an eager young jazz acolyte in New York in the Seventies.)

Hence:

Here’s quite an unusual version from Don Redman and his Orchestra, recorded on December 6, 1938.  The band was Carl Warwick, Reunald Jones, Mario Bauza, Quentin Jackson, Gene Simon, Don Redman, Eddie Barefield, Edward Inge, Pete Clarke, Joe Garland, Nicholas Rodriguez, Bob Lessey, Bob Ysaguirre, Bill Beason.  The numerical “lyrics,” if you could call them that, might serve as a test for intoxication — I can see the audience counting up and back with the band, although this seems to be a more difficult test than perhaps mumbling through the Scottish lyrics.  Or was it a sideways nod to the numerical antics of Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys on I’SE A MUGGIN’?  I can’t say:

What it says about me I don’t know, but in this video from Tim Gracyk, there is a comely young woman with her ice-cream cone who appears at 1:22.  Where is she now?  She is so unaffectedly pretty.  Oh, well.

May 2017 be kind to you; may you not lose hope. Get home safely.

And, as always —

May your happiness increase!

LO AND BEHOLD! — “THE FAT BABIES” at WHITLEY BAY (Nov. 9, 2014)

“Lo and behold!” is, by now, an archaic expression by which one refers to something surprising that has happened.  In this case, the surprises are all good ones.  (The record below belongs to William Berndt, who also took the photo.)

LO AND BEHOLD

 

When Andy Schumm (multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, bandleader) came to the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, he brought arrangements with him for a ten-piece band — which would have been a characteristic instrumentation in the late Twenties and early Thirties: three brass, three reeds, four rhythm.  At home, Andy and string bassist Beau Sample pilot a hot band called THE FAT BABIES (they’ve made two delightful CDs for the Delmark label and they have a regular gig in Chicago) . . . but the charts Andy brought held no terrors for the international luminaries at Whitley Bay.  In addition to Andy, there’s Menno Daams, cornet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Lars Frank, Claus Jacobi, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Henri Lemaire, banjo; Malcolm Sked, bass and sousaphone; Josh Duffee, drums.  They performed — nobly — a lengthy set of hot music, dance music, an Oriental fox-trot . . . full of surprises, including a new Schumm composition in the best style and many new arrangements of venerable songs.  Herewith!

FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE:

BABY (in the Guy Lombardo arrangement, with heat):

SHE REMINDS ME OF YOU (a song associated with Bing):

I WANT YOU, JUST MYSELF (homage to King Oliver with new solos):

CHINA GIRL (the aforementioned “Oriental fox-trot” with a wonderful outchorus):

I WANT TO GO HOME (a Joe Sanders arrangement):

LO AND BEHOLD! (from 1932):

SMILE WHEN THE RAINDROPS FALL (for Stan and Ollie, with a group vocal):

WHEN SHE CAME TO ME (comp. Schumm; manner, Goldkette):

LIVIN’ IN THE SUNLIGHT, LOVIN’ IN THE MOONLIGHT:

And if you’d like to hear more music like this, the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party is taking place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, November 5-8, 2015.

A postscript.  I take public transportation to get in and out of New York City, preferring that to the stress of finding parking for my car.  So on the bus and on the commuter railroad, everyone has earbuds firmly mounted.  Often I can hear what they are listening to through the earbuds, which means that audiologists will never want for work — but I digress.  Whether or not you can make it to Whitley Bay, I would like all my readers who commute to save some of these videos for their trek to and from work.  It would please me immensely to think of people on the bus or train happily grooving to BABY or LO AND BEHOLD!  Do what you can, please, to help make my hot jazz / hot dance fantasy a reality.

May your happiness increase!

JAZZ ARCHAEOLOGY, or A NEW TROVE

After my most recent venture into unexpected hot music (finding Lester Young and Charlie Parker 78s) Mal Sharpe told me I was a “jazz archaeologist,” which I take as a great compliment.

I have emerged from another rich unexpected dig, brushed the dust off of my khakis, taken my pith helmet off, and put down my shovels.  Here is my tale.

Yesterday afternoon, while much of the world was engaged in its own pursuits, the Beloved and I were meandering around Sebastopol, California: a paradise of nurseries and antique shops.  We arrived at one of our favorites, FOOD FOR THOUGHT ANTIQUES (2701 Gravenstein Highway South), a non-profit enterprise which gives the proceeds from its sales to the local food bank.  In the past, I’ve found some sheet music there and the odd record or two.  Nothing could have prepared me for the treasure that had arrived there four or five days ago. See for yourself:

Photograph by Lorna Sass

Photograph by Lorna Sass

Yes, perhaps eight hundred ten-inch 78 RPM records in their original paper sleeves. I thought the hoard had some connection to a record store, since many of the discs were blue-label Bing Crosby from 1936 onwards, but I was told that this wasn’t the case: a woman brought them to the store, explained that they were her much-loved collection, and that she now felt it was time to pass them on. I wish I could find out her name to send her thanks, but that might never happen.

And since you’d want to know, the records were one dollar each.

The first afternoon I went through about one-half of the collection: it was a good omen that the first record I picked up was the Victor ST. JAMES INFIRMARY BLUES by Artie Shaw featuring Hot Lips Page. Yes, there were many red-label Columbias by the early-Forties Harry James band, but that’s not a terrible phenomenon.

I gravitated towards the more unusual: KING JOE by Count Basie and Paul Robeson; a Bluebird coupling by Freddy Martin of MILENBERG JOYS and WOLVERINE BLUES; several Fats Waller and his Rhythm sides; a Bob Howard Decca; many Dick Robertson sides featuring a dewy Bobby Hackett; INKA DINKA DOO by Guy Lombardo on Brunswick; BLUE PRELUDE and WE’RE A COUPLE OF SOLDIERS by Bing Crosby on the same label; Johnny Hamp and Arnold Johnson; OLD MAN MOSE by Willie Farmer; a Meade Lux Lewis album set on Disc; Joe Sullivan and his Cafe Society Orchestra on OKeh; WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME by Ted Weems on Victor; a blue wax Columbia by Ted Lewis of TEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO — with his special label; a Johnny Marvin Victor solo and duet; THE LADY WHO SWINGS THE BAND (that’s Mary Lou Williams) by Andy Kirk on Decca; Bunny Berigan’s SWANEE RIVER; a Gene Kardos Melotone; the Rhythm Wreckers’ TWELFTH STREET RAG on Vocalion; the Bluebird BODY AND SOUL by Coleman Hawkins; JEEPERS  CREEPERS by Ethel Waters; Deccas by Lennie Hayton and Edgar Hayes.

(Who can tell me more about Willie Farmer?)

I returned this afternoon, and found the little flowered stool Valerie had offered me in the same place, so I resumed my inspection — many records but with far fewer surprises.  Wingy, BG, Fats, Jack Leonard, Ginny Simms, Bob Howard, Dick Robertson, Milt Herth (with Teddy Bunn and the Lion) and a few oddities. FOOTBALL FREDDY and FRATERNITY BLUES by “Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys” on Columbia (with, yes, Jack Purvis as the sole trumpet); the Mills Brothers singing lyrics to Pete Johnson’s 627 STOMP.  Les Brown performing two James P. Johnson songs from his 1939 POLICY KINGS: YOU, YOU, YOU and HARLEM WOOGIE. Jean Sablon singing TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE . . . and a few more.

I passed up a few country records, Julia Sanderson solos, Nat Shilkret and Charles Dornberger waltzes . . . but the collection was a rich cross-section of good popular music of the Thirties and middle Forties, with a few detours into the late Twenties. No specialist jazz labels, no country blues rarities — but the middle-of-the-road pop music of that period was rich and honest.

I feel honored to be partaking of this experience — this voyage into a time when Freddy Martin and Coleman Hawkins occupied the same space in the collective consciousness. . . . and when a purchase of a thirty-five cent Decca or Bluebird was a real commitment to art, both economic and emotional.

On the way home yesterday, the Beloved (after congratulating me on this find and rejoicing with me — she’s like that!) asked me pensively, “What do you get out of those records?”

I thought for a minute and said, “First, the music. I am trying not to buy everything just because it’s there, so I am buying discs I don’t have on CD or on my iPod. Second, there’s a kind of delight in handling artifacts from a lost time, relics that were well-loved, and imagining their original owners. Third, and perhaps it’s peculiar to me, these records are a way of visiting childhood and adolescence once again, going back to a leisurely time where I could sit next to a phonograph, listen to the music, and absorb joy in three-minute portions. I know that I won’t keep these records forever, and I hope — maybe in twenty years? — to pass them on to someone who will delight in them as I do now.”

And delight is at the heart of the experience.

To find out more about the Food For Thought antiques store and the food bank the proceeds go to (the staff is not paid; they volunteer their time and friendship) see here. The store — which has other surprises for those immune to “old records” — is at  2701 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol. Lovely people, and cookies at the cash register for the low-blood-sugar crowd (like myself: record-hunting is draining work).

May your happiness increase!

“OUCH, MY TOOTSIES!”

We’ve all worn difficult clothing in an attempt to be considered suitable as a Love Object.

I don’t know how far back the songwriters’ conceit of “I’m getting dressed up for my date with someone I’m crazy about and I have to put on shoes that hurt my feet” goes — although “My new shoes hurt” is part of the Ted Shapiro – Gus Kahn WAITIN’ FOR KATIE — in the savory 1927 recording by the Ben Pollack band, solos by young men in scuffed shoes (Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy McPartland, and Larry Binyon):

and the words show up at almost the same time in the 1928 “hot” recording of WAITIN’ FOR KATY by Guy Lombardo:

In 1935, another song developed this idea, most charmingly: the Sam Stept – Dave Franklin – Ned Washington BREAKIN’ IN A PAIR OF SHOES.  I offer three versions for your consideration.  The first is by the most lively and endearing Miss Cleo Brown with splendid rhythmic support from Vic Berton, Manny Stein, and Bobby Sherwood:

 

That recording I only discovered in the last year, however I knew the tune by heart because of this wonderful instrumental exploration by Teddy Wilson in his prime.  Where Cleo’s version is a sassy romp, Teddy’s is a sweetly logical exploration — mixing melodic embellishments and deeper improvisation all the way through, swinging gently but never racing, delicately balanced from first to last. . . not only a beautifully intricate solo piano performance but a delightful “dance record” in Thirties parlance:

And if your new shoes had the virtue of being flexible, you might want to dance some more — to the youthful Benny Goodman Orchestra:

No deep moral here, just an offering of good music. I hope you are surrounded by people who love you even if you wear unfashionable shoes.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN LOVE GETS HOT, SPECIAL INSTRUMENTS ARE REQUIRED

ROSES OF PICARDY was a famous ballad of the First World War, composed by Frederic Weatherly (lyrics) and Haydn Wood (music), gracefully describing the lasting love of an Englishman and a Frenchwoman . . .

Verse: She is watching by the poplars, / Colinette with the sea-blue eyes, / She is watching and longing, and waiting / Where the long white roadway lies, / And a song stirs in the silence, / As the wind in the boughs above, / She listens and starts and trembles, / ‘Tis the first little song of love.

Chorus: Roses are shining in Picardy, / In the hush of the silver dew, / Roses are flow’ring in Picardy, / But there’s never a rose like you! / And the roses will die with the summertime, / And our roads may be far apart, / But there’s one rose that dies not in Picardy, / ‘Tis the rose that I keep in my heart.

Verse: And the years fly on forever, / Till the shadows veil their skies, / But he loves to hold her little hands, / And look into her sea-blue eyes, / And she sees the road by the poplars, / Where they met in the bygone years, / For the first little song of the roses, / Is the last little song she hears:

Chorus: Roses are shining in Picardy, / In the hush of the silver dew, / Roses are flow’ring in Picardy, / But there’s never a rose like you! / And the roses will die with the summertime, / And our roads may be far apart, / But there’s one rose that dies not in Picardy, / ‘Tis the rose that I keep in my heart.

For the full effect, here is a glorious reading of the song by Ben Heppner:

But my subject is a recording of PICARDY by Red Nichols — full of surprises.  I first encountered the Nichols records of this period when I was young; I was especially intrigued by them because of my childhood affection for the film THE FIVE PENNIES.  My local suburban librarian was hip: the library’s holdings included Vic Dickenson, Jimmy Rushing, THE SOUND OF JAZZ, Ellington, and a Brunswick reissue of Nichols circa 1927-30, where I first heard IDA, AVALON, CHINA BOY, THE SHEIK, and others.

I hadn’t heard ROSES OF PICARDY until my recent purchase of the very gratifying sets of the Nichols Brunswicks (1926-32) on the Jazz Oracle label.  It became one of those essential recordings for me — one that I could play ten times in a row on the way to work.

I haven’t found a good explanation for Nichols’ fondness for what might be called “chestnuts” or “good old good ones” — solidly established classic pop hits of ten or more years earlier: IDA, MY GAL SAL, JAPANESE SANDMAN, WHISPERING, LIMEHOUSE BLUES, MARGIE, ALICE BLUE GOWN, INDIANA, SMILES, DINAH, WHO.  In this, he wasn’t so different from other jazz players, then and now, who knew that familiar favorites would both attract an audience and be part of the common knowledge.  (if the leader suggests SWEET SUE — in 1929 or 2013 — few musicians look puzzled or uncomfortable.)

But ROSES OF PICARDY had a sentimental identification, and I wonder if Nichols’ “jazzing” it struck some older listeners as heretical: “That’s not the way to play that pretty song!”  It might serve as a reminder that improvisation, no matter how established and safe it seems to our ears now, always sounds radical to some listeners.

This version was recorded on February 16, 1929, as the fifth performance of a date where the musicians had already completed two takes apiece of ALICE BLUE GOWN and ALLAH’S HOLIDAY.  I wonder if they had some time left at the conclusion and decided to create a head arrangement — somewhat less complex than the Glenn Miller charts for the preceding songs.  The personnel for the first four songs was Nichols, Mannie Klein, Miller, Dudley Fosdick, Jimmy Dorsey, Fud Livingston, Adrian Rollini, Arthur Schutt, Carl Kress, and an unidentified drummer.  I hear a smaller group on PICARDY and we know for sure that Miller was not present, but whether there was a second trumpet is not certain.

The band charges into the song, Nichols presenting the melody in a clear, assertive way — more like a wonderfully adept cornetist at a band concert than a hot jazz player leaving the melody behind.  One hears the dry slap of the drummer’s wire brushes, the sound of the bass saxophone (could it be anyone except Rollini?).  Apparently there is a high-pitched trombone playing staccato phrases and a thin but graceful clarinet line.  I take it on faith that there is a pianist (I do not hear a guitar) but the former is simply laying down the plain harmonies in support.

I also notice that the band — in subtle opposition to Nichols’ chosen tempo or perhaps simply finding a better groove — gently slows down as it proceeds through the two minutes and thirty-one seconds.  (The piano-drum duet in the first half of the final chorus is especially leisurely.)  I would not have noticed this so much had I not played the recording over and over and heard that the opening chorus was taken at a much brighter tempo than the closing.  The first chorus is very satisfying: one could use it is a compact example of simple melodic embellishment (in terms of ornamented melody) and neat ensemble playing.

Just as a listener might be settling into complacency, Rollini leaps in with a break, a marvel in itself.  One could point to its simplicity — arpeggios and repeated notes — but the combination of grace and ferocity is delightful.  It also suggests the small devices that Nichols and his contemporaries set up for variety, so that a recording was more than four or five choruses of ensemble – solo – ensemble.

The first half of the second chorus is given over to another embellished improvisation on the theme — by a brass player over a slightly ornate piano, bass saxophone, and drums.  On first hearing, one automatically assumes “trombone in the Miff Mole style, staccato yet elegant,” but the range is somewhat higher, the tone lighter.  The player’s approach is close to Nichols’ opening exposition, yet the second solo is slightly more fluid, punctuated by the pianist’s upward arpeggios.

In the second half of this chorus, we hear Jimmy Dorsey on alto saxophone over an even lighter background.  For some reason, there is no bass saxophone, so the texture is much lighter — and, listening closely, one has the delightful sensation of expectations being reversed.  Instead of textures becoming more rich, volume and density increasing, we are hearing the instruments of the orchestra — Papa Haydn in Hot — taking a break, leaving the stand.  The Incredible Shrinking Orchestra!

And then someone takes another break — with key change — to lead us into a world of even more playful marvels.  We’ve just heard the sonorities of Dorsey’s alto (the rich yet light sound that other players delighted in) — what is this squeaky thing that follows?

It might be a clarinet — Nichols often employed Pee Wee Russell and Fud Livingston, both of whom departed from orthodox clarinet sound in favor of explorations — but it sounds stranger than strange, even a bit elementary.  Did someone’s kid brother or sister bring a student model clarinet into the session to sit in for a chorus?

The ear is first mystified, then delighted.

And for a moment it seems as if all the other musicians have fled, leaving only the unusual reed player and the pianist, chiming behind perfectly, the drummer, hitting a cymbal (this has been worked out, one senses in retrospect) in front of the microphones.  Bass saxophone, alto, possibly other reeds, cornet and other brass — everyone’s in the alley next to the Brunswick studios taking a break, trading gossip or lighting up.

But no.  The third chorus is given over to a duet for two instruments that sound almost familiar — trombone and clarinet, we assume — for sixteen bars. For forty seconds — a short interlude in anyone’s lifespan but a substantial part of this 78 RPM recording — these two instruments cavort deliciously.  The “trombone” continues an ornamented exploration of PICARDY — in case listeners might have been led so far astray by the uncontrollable impulses of Reckless Jazz to forget where land is — as the “clarinet” dances overhead.  That “clarinet” has an oddly choked sound and a small range, so the player contents himself with deeply swinging emphases, rather like a speaker who has a small vocabulary but is vigorously concerned that the audience miss the point: here it is, and here it is again — getting somewhat more adventurous as the chorus continues, even venturing a series of upward plaintive phrases, the “trombone” sounded muffled but still agile beneath.

On my first hearing, driving to work as I was, I couldn’t check the personnel listings, but I played this exuberantly odd interlude over and over, thinking, “Is that Fud on clarinet and Miff on trombone?”  But I felt as if something otherworldly was taking place: had I been transported to an alternative realm, or was this soundtrack music for a pre-FANTASIA fantasia, where an animated lemur hopped around with a giraffe?

What has happened — bewitching and mystifying the ear for forty seconds — is so weirdly distant from what we might expect to hear (rather like the first appearance of Herschel Evans on clarinet on a Basie recording) that the piano half-chorus that follows seems theatrical, even stagy by comparison — with the drummer’s flourishes matching the pianist.  Again, we might wonder, “Where did everyone go?  Did these musicians have some urgent need to leave the studio at intervals?  Was there food poisoning from the previous night’s chili at Plunkett’s?”)

Before we have sufficient time to consider all these mysteries, the opening ensemble reasserts itself for a closing sixteen bars.  No tags, no flourishes, everything is as it was.  We awake from young Robin Molyneux’s dream — did those forty seconds happen?  Are we back in a Red Nichols session at the Brunswick studios?

Happily, the mystery I have encouraged here has tangible answers, and they take the shape of the ever-inventive Adrian Rollini and his “hot fountain pen,” the forgotten Dudley Fosdick and his mellophone.  Thanks to Albert Haim for the Melody Maker pages below — now it can be told!

HotFountainPen

and here is more gossip about the hot fountain pen:

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And even more here about the hot fountain pen from Sandy Brown’s website.

A fine explanation of the mellophone can be found here.  But the most engrossing reading on the subject can be found in the Nichols Jazz Oracle notes — a three-page essay by Phil Melick, witty and informed, on Dudley Fosdick (whose first recorded solo on the instrument is on the 1924 Ted Weems record of BIG BOY) and the mellophone itself.

Incidentally, the Incredible Shrinking Orchestra and the piano-drum duet make sense in retrospect as brief interludes enabling Rollini to leave his bass saxophone and approach the microphone alongside Fosdick.  And unlike the 1928 recording of BASIN STREET BLUES featuring Louis, Earl, and Zutty, no one stumbles audibly on the way.

This record of ROSES OF PICARDY is a joy.  Perhaps the musicians thought of it as an end-of-session romp: “We have a little time.  Let’s jam PICARDY, and do a whole chorus on your pen and your ‘phone.  OK?”  But that forty-second conversation between two unexpected jazz horns, played by two masters, resonates long after the performance is over.  Woe and alas that there wasn’t a Rollini-Fosdick Quintet under contract to Brunswick.  But I could live comfortably in the universe of those forty seconds.  ‘Tis the chorus that I keep in my heart.

(A digression: Fosdick recorded actively with Weems, Nichols, “the All Star Orchestra,” and Roger Wolfe Kahn for a ten-year period ending in December 1933, according to Tom Lord’s discography.  Then, he worked in Henry King’s orchestra and Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians, eventually migrating into studio work and teaching before his death in 1957.  It would be lovely if someone had interviewed him.)

And for my friend and mentor Reb Malcolm, a small offering — Frankie Laine with Buck Clayton, Ray Copeland, Lawrence Brown, J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Hilton Jefferson, Budd Johnson, “Big Nick” Nicholas, Dave McRae, Al Lerner, Skeeter Best, Milt Hinton, Bobby Donaldson.  I see the inspired hand of George Avakian in this, although Laine had been working with jazz players for years, as Jess Stacy remembered:

Thanks also to Messrs. Riccardi and Sammut, whose posts provide the inspiration for this one.

May your happiness increase!

“FROM RAGTIME TO JAZZ” WITH ROAD SCHOLAR PROFESSORS KRONINGER, ERICKSON, CALABRESE (March 2, 2012)

Before Dixieland Monterey 2012 began there was musical fun — somewhat like a cross between an aesthetic appetizer and a full-scale concert / lecture — hosted at the Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley, California: a presentation for the Road Scholar Program (formerly Elderhostel).  (Click  here to learn more.)  Let’s just say that I flew out early to be here and video the delightful commotion: the second day of Professors’ Kroninger (Sue, vocal, washboard, kazoo); Erickson (Eddie, banjo, vocal); Calabrese (Chris, tour director, piano) showing us the roads from ragtime to jazz.

Although they call themselves Professors, the atmosphere was light-years away from academic seriousness (I know from experience); I had a wonderful time: you will, too.

Professor Kroninger began by introducing the band (very cleverly) which led into Improvisations on RED RIVER VALLEY:

Romping with Professor Calabrese on TIGER RAG, THE PEARLS (an extraordinary feature for Professor Erickson), and some takeout Chinese for Louis: CORNET CHOP SUEY:

MEMPHIS BLUES (Prof. Kroninger belting it out in a melifluous way); explaining the washboard — as “the poor man’s drum kit”; and a trio examination of that vexing question (both geographical and existential) WHERE DID ROBINSON CRUSOE GO (With Friday on Saturday Night)?

Down came the theoretical curtain for a breath . . . .

The second half began with an entirely generous introduction of the man behind the camera (leading to a surprise question about a Guy Lombardo ragtime medley on cassette); then more Louis with BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN (team-teaching by Professors Kroninger and Erickson); an unexpected cellphone call; something for Bix — a beautiful reading of SINGIN’ THE BLUES by Professor Calabrese; a demonstration of stride piano with MAPLE LEAF RAG and a compelling bit of Wallering around on HANDFUL OF KEYS:

Finally, a kazoo lesson for all of us (DO try this at home, but make sure that you have a kazoo first), culminating in an ensemble performance of ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND:

It’s my pleasure to present the entire — informal — concert, all eighty-six minutes of it.  It’s not the same as being there . . . so make plans for 2013!  But as you can tell, a good time was had by all.  And everyone got an “A,” onstage and off.

BRIAN HARKER: LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S HOT FIVES AND SEVENS

Because so many uninformed or skewed pages have been written about Louis Armstrong, a new book that offers close scrutiny and original research is a pleasure.

Brian Harker’s LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S HOT FIVE AND HOT SEVEN RECORDINGS (Oxford) is just such a book.

Harker bravely and capably combines musicology (attentive readings of Louis’s playing on six famous sides recorded between 1926 and 1928) and cultural history (how were these performances influenced, shaped, and perceived).

So readers need not fear being overwhelmed by transcribed solos being subjected to pages of analysis, because Harker has done other kinds of work — presenting excerpts from Dave Peyton’s columns in the Chicago Defender, offering Armstrong’s comments on his music, as well as making imaginative connections between “sweet music,” vaudeville, the cornet / trumpet tradition, and show dancing.  All of these investigations add up to new ways of understanding Louis’s growth, his powerful influence.

Harker’s book (his dissertation, but with none of the inherent stuffiness and tedium of that form) devotes itself to CORNET CHOP SUEY, BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN, POTATO HEAD BLUES, S.O.L. BLUES / GULLY LOW BLUES, SAVOY BLUES, and WEST END BLUES — as masterpieces in themselves, and as monuments in jazz changing from an ensemble music to a soloist’s art.  Harker examines each recording as exemplifying a different aspect of Louis’s creative process.

However, he doesn’t ignore the fact that these recordings — now perceived as iconic — were created (aside from WEST END BLUES) with some degree of casualness, ideas that Louis and his friends worked up for record dates.  Ironically or paradoxically, Louis — who treasured his own recordings — said little about these records in his lifetime.  But we can be sure that he remembered every note.

But ultimately the recordings are all we have and all that generations to come will have.  Harker makes intriguing use of the most unusual detritus of Louis’s Chicago existence — imagining Louis and friends listening to Guy Lombardo’s radio broadcasts, bringing in excerpts from newspaper writing to suggest what it was like to be a jazz musician of the time.

His research is delightful, often surprising, and almost always conclusive.  Occasionally, I found myself saying, “Well, do we know that Louis heard that / read that / cared about that?”  But such skepticism vanished by the next page.  Harker is a clear, understated, witty writer, and he avoids the cliches of Louis-exegesis: Louis the flawed artist who had no idea of what he was doing, or Louis the God, who could make no mistakes.

I learned a great deal about Louis the musician and the man (like Houdini, holding his breath under water, about his changing from cornet to trumpet, about Louis’s playing for the dancers Brown & McGraw (this last a revelation) . . . and I can think of no other book that so joyously and effectively moves from Bud Freeman to the jurist Charles L. Black to Maynard Ferguson.

Since the book costs what a CD would — and it is more rewarding than many — I commend it to you.  Brian Harker is clearly a Big Butter and Egg Man of music.

LIGHTS OUT (CLOSE YOUR EYES AND DREAM OF ME)

In the name of accuracy, I must report that other copies of the sheet music for this song (circa 1935-6) have Kate Smith on the cover, so I don’t know if Louis ever performed it.  But he did record Hill’s THERE’S A CABIN IN THE PINES, and he would have known his friend Bing’s recording of THE LAST ROUNDUP.  The song seems to have been more popular with sweet bands — the lyrics below are connected in cyberspace to Eddy Duchin — but that doesn’t rule out Louis hearing or performing it, given his deep affinity for the Lombardo brothers. 

A tangential Louis-connection is that LIGHTS OUT was recorded by a jazz combo — with a vocal by Chick Bullock — under tenorist Art Karle’s nominal leadership (January 1936, Brunswick) with Mezz Mezzrow on clarinet, Joe Bushkin on piano and legendary drummer George Stafford as well as Frank Newton!

Beyond that, we have to imagine Louis tenderly asking the Beloved to close her eyes and dream of him.  I can hear the 1935 Decca band — think of THANKS A MILLION — doing this perfectly.  

The lyrics aren’t complex or striving for cleverness, but they’re very touching in their simplicity:

Lights out, sweetheart,
One more perfect day is through.
Lights out, sweetheart,
One more perfect dream come true.
We’ve reached the hour of parting,
So kiss me tenderly.
Lights out, sweetheart,
Close your eyes and dream of me.

Here’s a simple version of the melody, played sweetly by someone who may answer to “djweth”:

And a cover portrait of Billy Hill:

Let’s all sing!

And a postscript, sent to me from the invaluable Jack Rothstein, who knew “Arthur” Karle in Boston in the late Forties, about the LIGHTS OUT record date: “Arthur Karle told me they needed a piano player so he called Bushkin.  His father answered the phone and told him Joey was at the movies.  Arthur persuaded him to go get him.  He went but they wouldn”t page him so he bought a ticket and from the balcony yelled for Joey to go home.  And that’s how Bushkin got his first recording date.  It was the little Loews on 86th St. between Lexington and Third, directly across the street from the Loews Orpheum (the big Loews).”

ON TREASURE ISLAND

No, my title isn’t a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson, or the 1935 pop song recorded by Louis and Wingy Manone.  It’s how I think of the back quadrant of the antiques-and-collectables shop called CAROUSEL on Warren Street in Hudson, New York.  In a previous post, I happily showed off the Jelly Roll Morton HMV 78 I had uncovered . . . but I hadn’t bothered to look down.  What I found was two boxes of 10″ and 12″ 78s and a few 10″ lps — many of them suggesting that their previous owner had far-ranging and excellent jazz taste.  Here are my latest acquisitions, arranged in rough chronological order for the purists out there . . .

Let’s begin with some classic acoustic blues: two Columbias by a famous pair:

78s from Carousel 001

78s from Carousel 002

78s from Carousel 003

78s from Carousel 004

78s from Carousel 005

This one was fairly dull, but I didn’t expect roaring improvisation.

78s from Carousel 006

Well, we live in hope. SUSAN has some faux-hot playing in its final chorus, where potential buyers might not be scared away, but nothing memorable.

78s from Carousel 007

I recall this tune from Mildred Bailey’s little-girl version, but don’t know the vocalist.

78s from Carousel 008

This 78 is cracked, but this side’s a real prize.  With the song taken at a slower tempo than usual, there’s a good deal of growling from Bubber Miley in the last minute of the record, out in the open and as part of the ensemble.  A find!

78s from Carousel 009

What first caught my eye was the lovely UK label . . . then when I saw this and the next ones were mint Bings from 1933, I couldn’t resist.  And Eddie Lang is added to the Royal Canadians.  Legend has it that the British pressings are quiet and well-behaved.  Is this true?

78s from Carousel 010

Not a memorable song, but I can hear Bing becoming pastoral as I type these words.

78s from Carousel 011

78s from Carousel 012

And my favorite of the four sides — a jaunty naughty song about love-addiction, and perhaps other things, too.  I always knew that “I must have you every day / As regularly as coffee or tea,” didn’t entirely refer to Twining’s Earl Grey.

78s from Carousel 013

Now you’re talking my language!  We jump forward into the Forties (I left aside a number of familiar Commodores and Keynotes, because of the economy) — with a record I’d only heard on an Onyx lp compilation.  Here’s the original 12″ vinyl pressing, with “Theodocius,” as Mildred called him on a 1935 record, who was under contract to Musicraft at the time.  A wonderful quintet!

78s from Carousel 014

And a tune that only one other jazz group (Benny Morton-Red Allen, 1933) ever recorded.

78s from Carousel 015

For whatever reason, 10″ jazz lps are even more scarce than 78s, so this one was a real surprise — even without its cover.

78s from Carousel 016

Just as good!

78s from Carousel 017

The other side of the ideological divide, but equally thrilling.

78s from Carousel 018

Did Mingus overdub his bass lines on this issue, I wonder?

78s from Carousel 019

Take it on faith that side 2 is exactly the same except for the altered digit.  Now, to conclude — a pair of oddities!

78s from Carousel 021

I can see myself listening to this two-sided piece of history once, if that — but the near-mint record and the original sleeve made it an essential purchase.  I’ll also send this photo to my friend, poet Amy King, who isn’t abdicating her throne any time soon.

78s from Carousel 022

Finally, a real gamble and entirely irresistible for that reason.  The logical half of the brain says that what looks like “Hawk” will turn out to be “Hank,” singing about his girl Nona, accompanying himself on the musical saw.  The hopeful side of the brain says “Coleman Hawkins, of course . . . ”  Stay tuned!  My next purchase, obviously, has to be a three-speed turntable.

And two antique-store stories, both cheering.  In Carousel, the gentleman behind the counter saw me come puffing up with my armload of precious 78s.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think the store does a brisk business in 78s, so he was happy to see me.  “I have twelve,” I said, with that hopeful expectant canine look on my face that says, silently, “Can you give me a break on the price, especially if I don’t haggle with you?”  His intuition was splendid.  He grinned at me and said, “Looks like ten to me.”  I was pleasantly flustered and said, conspiratorially, “You knew I was hoping for some sort of discount, didn’t you?” and his smile got bigger.  “No,” he said, “I just count better than you do.”  Very sweet indeed!

And a few days before this, the Beloved and I had spent some time in a store in an odd location — where, I don’t exactly remember.  Its owner was even more amiable, even when we couldn’t find a thing to buy in his place, including gardening books and a small stash of vinyl records.  But we had an exceedingly amusing and thoughtful conversation with him about the changing nature of the area, and how it affected local businesses.  We exchanged friendly good wishes at the end, and went outside to get in the car.  A few beats later, we saw him emerge from the store.  “Did I tell you my clown joke?” he said, and we said no, he hadn’t — hoping for the best but expecting something positively weird or terrifying.  (One never knows, do one?)  “Two cannibals are eating a clown, and one of them looks at the other and says, suspiciously, ‘Does this taste  funny to you?”  It caught me by surprise and, after a moment for cogitation, we were laughing loudly.  Now you can tell it to someone else.

“*RARE* autographs of JAZZ BAND GREATS & others c.1955”

The title of this post caught my eye on a recent amble through eBay.  I don’t often visit that famous site, for fear of stumbling across something I feel seized by . . . but this was vague and enticing both. 

As as aside, I know that I have written about the allure of autographs — the intense desire some of us have to possess an artifact that one of our heroes has, by signing his or her name, said I WAS HERE.  The other side of that emotion, of course, is the practical: what does one do with an autograph once one has acquired it?  Frame it and hang it on the wall?  Fine — it can be seen, admired, bowed to — but it does tend to turn the overall decor into some uneasy blend of museum and adolescent atelier.  Put the autograph in an acid-free folder where it will be safe from its eventual decomposition?  Wonderful, except it is now reasonably invisible.  Thus, I have coveted many more autographs than I will ever purchase. 

These photos greeted me the other day as I idly scrolled through eBay.

ebay 1

A well-preserved, elaborate restaurant menu — its blue cord and tassel still intact.  Someone took good care of this!

ebay 2

ebay 3

Nothing particularly vivid here . . . except for the very clear signature of pianist Billy Kyle, top left.  I knew what jazz band he had been part of in 1955.  More to come!

ebay 4

Small print.  Would I have liked to eat there?  

ebay 5

Useful to verify the date . . . but where are my Jazz Band Greats?

ebay 6

Another clear signature, although Guy Lombardo was not my idea of a Jazz Band Great.

ebay 7

Well, the signatures of Velma Middleton and Louis Armstrong are sufficient for me!  So Louis and his All-Stars were on the same bill as Guy Lombardo at this Atlantic City club whose restaurant had chocolate mint ice cream.  (Louis must have been thrilled.)  Driver, let’s go! 

The seller had written:

Hello! Up for auction is this RARE! c.1955 Autographed Menu from Atlantic City (The Traymore). Some of the autographs are hard to Identify….This menu has only been owned by 1 person since 1955…Their are NO COA’s with this menu. These autographs are REAL. They are all uncanny from the auto’s I have seen for sale. You be the judge! The menu is in Excellent condition. Any questions feel free to email me at anytime. Thanks for looking and Good Luck!

Was it that the seller didn’t know or understand what she or he had?  (his or her other items for sale had been automotive, which might make this piece of jazz arcana particularly arcane.)  As I wrote this post, there had been no bidding on this item, which suggests someone from a generation to whom the names LOUIS ARMSTRONG and GUY LOMBARDO were nearly devoid of meaning, which is sad.

Update: the biddind ended well past my bedtime.  The next morning, three bids had been entered, and someone purchased this for the magisterial sum of $22.50.  It is true that Louis must have autographed pieces of paper, menus, and pictures many times between the middle Twenties and 1971, but each one is, in its own way, precious.