Tag Archives: HAPPY BIRTHDAY

“DEFINITELY A TEAM SPORT”: A BIRTHDAY CARD FROM THE ORIGINAL CORNELL SYNCOPATORS

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I’ve gotten into trouble for saying this, but I’m not always enthusiastic about note-for-note recreations of recordings.  But what follows — music and dance from the Original Cornell Syncopators — has such energy, wit, and life force that I just might have to change my mind.  The OCS, led by multi-instrumentalist and wizard Colin Hancock, is Noah Li, drums; Hannah Krall, clarinet; Amit Mizrahi, piano; Rishi Verma, trombone.  Their director is Joe Salzano; their “coaches” are Dan Levinson, Hal Smith, and David Sager, so you know — even before you hear a note — that they’re all on the right path.  And then there’s the splendidly mobile Crazeology Dance Troupe.  I might have to visit Ithaca, New York.

Incidentally, the detailed and articulate description underneath the first video answers all the questions you had and some you didn’t know you did but are glad they are answered.

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL is often approached far too quickly: this version is both percussive and lyrical:

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA has been worn to a nub, but this version allows us to hear it again, afresh (with a few of the original chord changes, which now sound unusual):

Most of us hear OSTRICH WALK through Bix and his Gang: this is what Bix and friends heard:

You’d better dig this JASS BAND BALL is what I say:

How deliciously heretical this music must have sounded a century ago; how refreshing it sounds today.  Thank you, Creative Youngbloods!  (And the OCS have other projects in mind — I suggest you subscribe to the appropriate YouTube channel for hours of satisfying and thought-provoking music.  You could dance to it, I’m told, as well.

May your happiness increase!

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HOORAY FOR CAPTAIN SKJELBRED!

Today, November 2, is the birthday of one of our heroes — pianist / composer / singer / poet / imaginer / scholar Ray Skjelbred.  He is an original, even when he is letting the great traditions flow through him; he is both inscrutable and generously open; he continues to improve life in this century.

No formulaic cupcakes with candles for Captain Skjelbred!

I offer instead a small musical mosaic of his own subversive creations — the first three when no one was supposed to be paying attention (someone might call it “making friends with the piano”) that I captured on May 25, 2014, at the Sacramento Music Festival.

Since I envision Captain Skjelbred as a quiet spy in the enemy country of mediocrity and repeater pencils, the fact that I caught him unaware might just be fair play.  He does the same for and to us: in the fourth video, MY GALVESTON GAL (performed with his Cubs — Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Kim Cusack, clarinet) there is an odd and whimsical phrase Ray creates at 1:50 that makes me say, “What? What?” every time I hear it.

And he does it again, playing the piano, playing music, playing with our expectations — and always gratifying them in ways we didn’t know existed.

Thank you, Captain Skjelbred.  We are grateful you are here.

Music for Groucho — Kalmar and Ruby, 1930:

A little Monkishness, or is it Monkiania?:

Some blues, sun-warmed, locally grown, organic:

And a pop tune from 1933, MY GALVESTON GAL, featured by Henry Allen, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Morton — much-beloved silliness, with a particularly Skjelbredian interlude at 1:50:

And no one calls him schnorrer. (Julius can explain, or you could look it up.)

P.S.  Should anyone wonder, “Michael, now you’re posting clips that last less than a minute?  Have you run out of things to post?”  The answer is, in a hushed tone, “You have no idea of what remains to be seen.” The idea of a mosaic of orts and fragments appeals to me, and I hope also to the Captain.  Found poetry!

May your happiness increase!

IN CELEBRATION! “WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 23, 2012)

Facebook, the cyber-world’s town crier, let me know this morning that today, March 6, is clarinetist / bandleader / composer Tim Laughlin’s birthday.  That is a major event, for Mr. Laughlin not only creates beautiful swirling melodies, but he surrounds himself with synergistic bands that uplift us all.  In celebration of this very notable day, I present another set that his All-Stars played at the November 2013 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival.  They are Connie Jones, cornet; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  And in their honor, I have changed the title of the first selection from the tentative to the more optimistically assertive, for this band made and makes dreams take tangible swinging shape.  (And the wonderful repertoire!)

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE:

TEARS:

MY BUDDY:

A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY:

CHINA BOY (Hal kicks it off!):

TEA FOR TWO (featuring Chris, Marty, Katie, and Hal):

FOR ALL WE KNOW:

JUBILEE:

Happy birthday, Mr. Laughlin.  You and your friends increase our happiness more than you could imagine.  I’ve seen and heard it happen.

May your happiness increase.

NOW HERE COMES THE BEAUTIFUL PART: 1933 / 2012

Here is a wondrous (and famous) 1933 Louis Armstrong record, LAUGHIN’ LOUIE — which combines the comic pretense of the brassman who can’t play because he is laughing too hard with Louis’ stunning a cappella rendition of “Love Song,” a silent-movie theme by Minnie T. Wright (thanks to Vince Giordano for this discovery):

Imagine a world without Louis Armstrong.  Impossible and unthinkable.

Happy Birthday, Pops.  You are the beautiful part.  And my use of the present tense is no stage joke.

For the ultimate blogpost on LAUGHIN’ LOUIE, I offer the one written by the Louis-master, Ricky Riccardi — a feast for the ear and heart.  And thanks to all the vipers and musicians in the house: Clarence, Little Bobby Hacksaw, Milton Mesirow, and a thousand more.

May your happiness increase.

A DECADE OF SWING AND FUN!

Congratulations are in order to the splendidly swinging Rebecca Kilgore Quartet (formerly known as B E D) — a very gratifying group that has just completed its first decade of appearances, recordings, and accolades.  They are Rebecca Kilgore, vocals and rhythm guitar; Eddie Erickson, vocals, guitar, banjo, and hi-jinks; Dan Barrett, trombone, cornet, arrangements, vocals, piano, and travelogues; Joel Forbes, string bass.

Here they are — plus the wonderful New Orleans clarinetist Tim Laughlin — to show us what true spaciousness, even amplitude means — I’ll translate that as THAT’S A PLENTY — recorded at the much-missed Sweet and Hot Music Festival in 2011:

There are many other small groups out there clamoring for our attention, but the RK4 is special.  For one thing, they are an engaging bunch: there is always laughter on the stand, and the audience is encouraged to join in.  This quartet quickly turns listeners into friends.  There’s always something happening during their performances, which are delightfully varied — Becky floats delicately above the rocking rhythms provided by Eddie and Joel; Dan takes a cornet solo backed by Eddie’s banjo; Eddie sings a tender ballad or Becky shows off her multilingual prowess in French or Portuguese.  Dan shifts over to the piano to turn the band into a modern King Cole trio . . . the hour goes by too quickly.

Here’s what I wrote in 2010 about their glorious CD, YES, INDEED!

The Rebecca Kilgore Quartet has appeared at jazz festivals and parties worldwide — from Roswell, New Mexico, to Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Monterey in California, to Odessa, Texas and Clearwater Beach, Florida; they’ve done concerts and student outreach programs; they’ve appeared on the JazzFest at Sea Cruise; they perform at private parties big and small.  Since they joined forces a decade ago, they’ve created five rewarding compact discs: GET READY FOR B E D (2002) ; BEDlam (2004); WATCH OUT! (2006); B E D Four + 1 (2008); YES, INDEED! (2010) — all available on the Blue Swing Fine Recordings label.*

When they began to delight listeners a decade ago, their stated goal was “to swing and have fun.”  This hasn’t changed.  In fact, they’ve gotten better — offering lively, joyous music that you don’t have to be a “jazz fan” to enjoy.

I hear them in my dreams.

For bookings please contact Michael Francis: (575) 653-4603 or (575) 937-6304.  His email is: mfjazz@pvtnetworks.net — or find him at www.mfjazz.com

My only problem in writing this celebratory post is a philosophical one.  Should we be wishing the RK4 a Happy Birthday or a Happy Anniversary?  Readers are invited to write in with suggestions — but, better yet, pick a date for your next celebration and make sure that the RK4 is there, too.

*About those discs.  Each one is a treat . . . but that’s no surprise.  I always think the best way to buy one is to find the RK4 on a gig and get the discs direct, but I realize that isn’t always possible. The most recent one, YES, INDEED! is available here (that’s CDBaby).  For the others, you could go to the source — www.rebeccakilgore.com or email the lady herself at   info@rebeccakilgore.  (Becky’s got info. Who could ask for anything more?)

May your happiness increase.

A SECOND HELPING OF BIRTHDAY CAKE: BOB WILBER, EHUD ASHERIE, and PUG HORTON (Smalls, March 15, 2012)

Nothing more needs to be said, except that this is the second set of reedman / composer / bandleader / inspiration Bob Wilber’s eighty-fourth birthday celebration at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street, New York) where he was accompanied by his own “favorite rhythm section,” pianist Ehud Asherie — with a guest spot for Bob’s wife, Joanne “Pug” Horton.  Bob played some wonderful jazz classics — as if summoning up all his heroes, mentors, and friends in an admiring ring around the bandstand.

For Bix, Bechet, and Bobby — a sprightly I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA:

For Fats and Louis (dig Ehud’s beautiful playing here!) — BLUE TURNING GRAY OVER YOU:

Edgar Sampson’s BLUE LOU — with the second chorus given to Bob’s own line on the chords, which he calls LOU’S BLUES:

Bob then invited his wife Pug to the stand to sing “a little eight-bar blues,” that hymn to defiance, ‘T’AIN’T NOBODY’S BIZ-NESS IF I DO:

And — appropriate for a birthday — AS LONG AS I LIVE:

Bechet’s lovely SI TU VOIS MA MERE:

And the bunny jumped over the fence and got away — a briskly moving COTTON TAIL:

Many happy returns of the day to Mr. Wilber — with felicitations to Mr. Asherie and Mrs. Wilber, too!

May your happiness increase.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB WILBER! (and THANK YOU, EHUD ASHERIE and PUG HORTON): Smalls, March 15, 2012

I know that in JULIUS CAESAR the Ides of March are a bad time to be out in public.  But Bob Wilber — that’s Robert Sage Wilber, clarinetist, soprano saxophonist, tenor saxophonist, composer, arranger, occasional singer, eminent bandleader — turned eighty-four on March 15, 2012, and played two substantial duet sets with pianist Ehud Asherie at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street, New York).   So we have to conclude that the Ides are not ominous for everyone.

People who do not play instruments professionally forget or perhaps have never known just how difficult it is to do — consistently, on any level.  Breath and reflexes, mental memory and muscle memory, all are essential attributes.  And just as people slow down when they reach “the golden years,” we might expect a musician’s fingers and embouchure to weaken, to falter.

Bob is an astonishing example of someone at the top of his form.  And this isn’t sweet-natured hyperbole for a diminished elder player: listen to his firm attack, lustrous tone, gliding mobility.  He was remarkable as a Bechet protege in 1947; he is even more remarkable now.

Bob calls Ehud “my favorite rhythm section in New York,” and if you don’t know Ehud’s work already — intuitive, attentive, subtle, multi-hued, and swinging — you are in for yet another treat.  Not only is he a delicious soloist, he is a splendidly sensitized accompanist.

It was lovely to meet a few old friends and to make some new ones (Alistair and Jan from London; Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke, among others) — and the audience was delighted to be in the same room as Bob and his wife Pug, to share their happiness.

The first set began with a lyrical version of Ellington’s I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART — Bob’s evocation of Johnny Hodges:

Even though I don’t quite want to give Lil Hardin Armstrong as much credit for writing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE as does Bob, I have no quibbles with his floating version here:

More Ellingtonia.  And why not?  JUST SQUEEZE ME:

After Bob turned down Ehud’s suggestion of HIGH SOCIETY, they settled on the cheerful THREE LITTLE WORDS (with echoes of Benny, of course):

Not only is THANKS A MILLION the way we feel about Bob; it’s such a pretty Louis-associated song:

And the first set ended with Bob’s tribute to Billy Strayhorn with — what else? — TAKE THE “A” TRAIN:

How generous — and how typical — of Bob to use his time in the limelight, the celebration that he had for himself, to honor the Masters: Louis and Duke, Lil and Strays, Benny and Hodges!

Take a fifteen-minute break: we’ll be back for the second set!  (Bob and Ehud are working the room . . . talking to friends, too.)

May your happiness increase.