The wonderful artist — whose work combines fantasy, comedy, and beauty — Ivana Falconi — has a show of her work at the Swiss Consulate in Manhattan (open by appointment until February 23, 2003). She regularly displays new creations on Facebook: see more here and here.
Ivana’s husband is the splendid tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, and he and the marvelous string bassist Gabriele Donati gave us a little night music. I recorded this on my iPhone because I couldn’t bear to let it go away into the air. “Splendid!” to quote our mutual friend and hero, pianist Rossano Sportiello.
I have had the immense good fortune to know Harry (thanks to Jazz at Chautauqua), Gabriele (thanks to the 75 Club, as well as his charming family), and Ivana (through becoming an art-delighter) for years now, and they repaid me and the OAO and everyone else in the room with beauty.
and . . . .
and the delightful sight-and-soundtrack:
Beautiful music is in the air; it surrounds us. Of course, it helps to be in the right place at the right time, surrounded by brilliant generous friends. Often you have to leave the house, but no surprise there.
A wonderful interlude given to us by Harry Allen and Houston Person, tenor saxophones; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums, at the 2014 San Diego Jazz Party. The program, as announced by Houston, is YOU ARE TOO BEAUTIFUL (Harry) / MISTY (Rossano, Nicki) / AS TIME GOES BY (Houston):
Lovely sounds, spiritual medicine. Good for what ails you.
I learned about this video of the Friday-night concert of the 2021 West Texas Jazz Party from my friend, the great drummer Ricky Malichi — and I settled back into fifty-eight minutes of pleasure . . . not the least of it being that the video was professionally shot and edited (beautifully) and I could be a delighted spectator for once. To explicate the twenty names above, although few of them need identification . . . Warren Vache, cornet; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Dan Barrett, John Allred, Russ Phillips, trombone; Harry Allen, Peter Anderson, Will Anderson, reeds; Nate Najar, guitar; Daniele Soledad, vocal; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Nicki Parrott, vocal and string bass; Frank Tate, Richard Simon, string bass; Rossano Sportiello, Johnny Varro, Brian Piper, piano; Chuck Redd, drums and vibes; Ricky Malichi, Eddie Metz, drums.
These selections from Friday night at the Ector Theatre are so beautifully polished, testifying to the immense professionalism of the musicians at the Party: without any commercial interruptions, it’s a wonderful advertisement for the 2022 and future WTJP!
You’ll see it’s not just a casual blowing session — there are some clever charts (who did them?) but the swinging cohesion is both typical and admirable.
Here’s the menu:
LIMEHOUSE BLUES: Sandke, Allen, Will Anderson, Varro, Tate, Redd
IN A MELLOTONE: Barrett, Allred, Phillips, Piper, Simon, Malichi
A LITTLE GIRL FROM LITTLE ROCK and LIKE THE BRIGHTEST STAR: Kilgore, Parrott, Allen, Sportiello, Metz, Redd
THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME and IT’S YOU OR NO ONE: Vache, Allred, Peter Anderson, Piper, Simon, Malichi
DOUBLE RAINBOW: Najar, Soledade
JUST FRIENDS and AFTERGLOW: Sandke, Barrett, Allen, Will Anderson, Varro, Tate, Metz
A delightful offering, and so well-produced. And thanks again to Ricky Malichi, who swings even when away from his kit.
You won’t find my videos when you open your medicine chest in the bathroom, but this music heals.
Thank you, Oscar Pettiford, for your wonderful blues line. And thank you, Mundell Lowe, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitars; Dave Stone, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone, for creating such joy out of it at the 2014 San Diego Jazz Party.
Yesterday, I posted STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY by the same group, and then delved into my YouTube archives to find this delightful interlude — rendered poignant because Bucky, Mundell, and Dave are no longer with us, but also a celebration of Youngbloods Chuck and Harry, who are, so very much so.
Melodic swing is the best medicine: watch this, tap your foot, and feel the tensions of the day abate. I guarantee it, or your money back. And yes, JAZZ LIVES accepts your health insurance. Just show your card at the front desk.
First, I want to thank the very gracious Chuck Redd and Harry Allen, the surviving members of this ad hoc group, who (seven years later) have given me permission to share this performance with you. Alas, Bucky left us in 2020, Mundell in 2017, and Dave in June of this year.
It’s not a perfect video-capture: it takes the eager fans some time to stop chatting and realize that human beings are creating music in front of them, and the sound is a little distant, because the festival organizers had me standing at the back of the room . . . but the music is memorable, and it’s another slice of immortality for these creators.
I’ve posted other music from this party featuring Bucky, Mundell, Dave, Harry, Chuck, and wondrous colleagues — so I encourage you to add to your list of pleasures.
I had the good fortune to see the ebullient pianist / singer / sparkplug Marty Napoleon — born June 2, 1921 — four times. The occasions were widely separated but memorable. The first, my sole sighting of Louis Armstrong, at an All-Stars concert in April 1967, where Marty’s energies illuminated the huge room. I didn’t even think to bring my Instamatic camera, so I have no evidence to share with you. In January 1976, I attended a Louis tribute — with Bobby Hackett, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Marty, and others. I will share the audio from that concert later this year.
The third and fourth occasions — in 2012 — I was able to bring my video camera, thanks to the kindness of the musicians and of Marty’s great friend, advocate, and photographer Geri Goldman Reichgut.
Here’s Marty, sitting in at Harry Allen’s gig at Feinstein’s, with the much-missed Joe Temperley, Joel Forbes, and Chuck Riggs, in addition to the pride of the Upper West Side, Jon-Erik Kellso:
and a BLUES IN F:
Later that year, Geri arranged it so that I could record Marty on his home turf in Glen Cove with Ray Mosca and everyone’s friend-hero, Bill Crow.
Here are some of the sounds. First, CARAVAN:
Then, a medley celebrating Marty’s years with Louis:
And a righteous take on THE PREACHER:
Finally, PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE — amusingly ironic in this case, since Marty will never entirely be “gone” as long as someone hears his music, and knowing him even a little bit, he surely is glad to be talked about:
Marty didn’t make it to one hundred: he left us in 2015. But his lively presence lives on in the memories of the many people who saw him in person and those who can see these video performances now.
Up in the clouds created by Django Reinhardt with two guitar masters, Bucky Pizzarelli, and (in a supporting role) Mundell Lowe, accompanied by Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Dave Stone, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums. This performance took place at the San Diego Jazz Party, February 21, 2014.
Bucky, ever the showman, always introduced a nearly-violent interlude into his NUAGES. Perhaps there was a squall passing through.
We celebrate Harry, Dave, and Chuck (who graciously gave permission to share this video with you) and we miss Bucky and Mundell.
Only a fool would disagree with Billy Kyle. But reserved for what, and where?
We’re a day late for a celebration of Coleman Hawkins’ birthday, but Hawk would be pleased to know that there were noble tenor saxophonists playing at The Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, in these videos from June 27, 2010, featuring Harry Allen and Scott Robinson on tenors; James Chirillo, guitar; Greg Cohen, string bass.
Asking the musical question:
WILL YOU STILL BE MINE? — where the quartet is joined by violinist Valerie Levy and tenorist Evan Schwam:
BLUE SKIES, scored for sextet:
WHERE OR WHEN, with Valerie and Evan:
WHERE OR WHEN, concluded:
BROADWAY, with guests Valerie and Evan adding to the fun:
TOO LATE NOW, back to the original quartet:
ON THE ALAMO:
STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:
STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, concluded:
Bless these musicians, for what they give us so generously.
Are you ready to join me on our Sunday pilgrimage to the Shrine of Sounds, where the EarRegulars and friends gambol and inspire? I hope so.
Let us begin with music from the second set at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, on Sunday, April 25, 2010: Ben Webster’s line on IN A MELLOTONE, which was based on ROSE ROOM — Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass — asking the musical question, DID YOU CALL HER TODAY?
and the second part, the length of a 10″ 78 rpm record:
Then, another hint of Ellingtonia — Johnny Hodges’ line on I GOT RHYTHM, called THE JEEP IS JUMPIN’ — which adds Danny Tobias, trumpet, and Andy Farber, tenor saxophone to the mix . . . for ten minutes:
because it would be cruel to leave out the final forty-five seconds, here they are:
Mr. Tobias calls his favorite tune, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE, where he’s joined by Andy Farber, Harry Allen, Matt Munisteri, and Jim Whitney, string bass:
A new constellation of brilliant friends plays COMES LOVE: Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Harry Allen, Andy Farber, Chris Flory, guitar, and Jim Whitney:
and we know LOVE takes its own time to . . . . arrive:
Finally, the song that always amuses me by its paradoxical nature when it’s the last tune of the night, LINGER AWHILE, a gift from Messrs. Kellso, Tobias, Allen, Farber, Flory, and Miner:
Joy. And while we contemplate the joys of a decade ago, let us keep our eyes comfortably fixed on a future not yet realized, but one we hope for.
Once again, it’s time for the joyous pilgrimage — virtual, for the moment — to the Shrine, The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, to have the EarRegulars raise our spirits. I’ve posted a dozen small celebrations so far, which you can immerse yourself in here.
And we’re back — at least in the world of video-performance of joy. Here’s the wonderful evidence from April 25, 2010, with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass. The opening song from a splendid session was a Chicago jazz classic with roots in Oliver and Bix, performed as a Basie stroll. I speak of ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:
“You’ll miss me, honey!” “When?” “Oh, SOME OF THESE DAYS”:
A tender I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:
Historical London, perhaps a century ago — LIMEHOUSE BLUES:
Harry’s chosen feature, SEPTEMBER SONG:
and a little caffeine, not needed with this quartet, TEA FOR TWO:
I will have the second-set jam session to share with you next week, barring natural disasters and emotional crises. But let us keep looking forward with hope to the return of the real thing, at the intersection of Hugging and Restorative Sounds. I know I can loosen my stiff legs and relearn the way to 326 Spring Street, and you can also. (Your legs are your own business.)
Another of the wondrous ballad medleys that used to begin and end the splendid jazz weekend, Jazz at Chautauqua: here, from 2013. And, because it’s daylight, it was the medley that sent us all home, exhausted by pleasure, on a Sunday afternoon.
The roadmap: After a few of the usual hi-jinks, the rescue squad finds a second microphone for Marty Grosz, Harry Allen plays EASY LIVING; Dan Block, DAY DREAM; Bob Havens essays CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN; Duke Heitger finishes off this segment with I KNOW WHY (And So Do You):
I had to put a new battery in at this point, so I missed a few choruses (you’ll see Dan Levinson leaving the stage — my apologies to Dan and the other musicians I couldn’t capture).
Then, Randy Reiinhart plays MY FUNNY VALENTINE; Andy Schumm follows, politely, with PLEASE; Andy Stein calls for LAURA; Marty takes the stage by himself for the Horace Gerlach classic IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN; Rossano Sportiello plays SOPHISTICATED LADY, so beautifully:
Those would have been the closing notes of the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua: another unforgettable interlude of music and friendship. Bless the musicians, bless the shade of Joe Boughton and bless his living family, bless Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock. Those experiences are unforgettable evidence that once, such things were beautifully possible, and we witnessed them — me, with a video camera. How fortunate we were!
When we last left our Intrepid Creators of Joy, the EarRegulars, it was Easter Sunday 2010 — centuries ago! — and they were making music: evidence here. That link, not accidentally, will open the cyber-cat-door to the previous ten postings. Knock yourself out, as we say.
Moving forward — or backwards? through April 2010 — hard to say, but here we are, in hope and swing, beginning with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Jon Burr, string bass:
CRAZY RHYTHM (Matt Munisteri, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; John Allred, trombone; Pat O’Leary, string bass):
With hopes that the next time we see each other, there will be no lit screens, just people, friendship, free breathing, and music. Until that day . . .
It’s Sunday again — and that means it’s time to go to The Ear Inn. This will explain it all.
I know, perhaps better than you’d think, the difference between a live performance and a video, but I’d ask you to not scoff at the latter, because it is our century’s version of a phonograph record . . . and since I would guess that few people alive in 2020 heard Charlie Christian, we’ve contented ourselves with his “recorded legacy.”
Here’s my humble contribution to keeping The Ear Inn and The EarRegulars fresh and lively in our ears and hearts.
Thanks to the magic of technology, we can go there (or back or sideways) to hear music from November 8, 2009, featuring Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass, unaffected Ministers of Magic.
Victor Herbert’s INDIAN SUMMER:
With nods to Whiteman and Horace Henderson, HAPPY FEET:
and Louis’s swinging anthem of reproach, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:
Blessings on the place, its inhabitants musical and non-musical. Let us gather there soon in peace and safety, our hearts purged of fear.
I have little to complain about in tangible things, but today’s mood is such that this meme (courtesy of dear friend Amy King) provoked rueful laughter and recognition:
Those of you who don’t know what a “meme” is can dial one of the grandkids. “Kinky,” you’re on your own.
Today I thought that cheerful hot music would be out of place, so here is a beautifully rueful creation.
The superficial portrait of Irving Berlin is that he wrote cheerful music, with exceptions like WHAT’LL I DO? and REMEMBER. But he is also powerfully poignant about romance that has deflated or perished, as in SAY IT ISN’T SO — its title characteristically taken from a popular conversational phrase. But when Becky Kilgore and her lightly swinging friends approach it, the sadness is balanced against the gentle motion of the beat, everyone’s personal phrasing. Her friends are Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; John Sheridan, piano; Frank Tate, string bass.
This performance magically unfolded in front of us (and my camera) on Thursday night, September 20, 2012, at the informal session that began Jazz at Chautauqua at the Hotel Athenaeum. Fabled times, lovely music.
I offer you the second part of a glorious informal session from Thursday night, September 17, 2009 at Jazz at Chautauqua — a quartet of lyrical melodists: Joe Wilder, trumpet and flugelhorn; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass. Hereis the first part of the evening’s festivities: DON’T BLAME ME, ‘DEED I DO, and JUST SQUEEZE ME.
Mr.Wilder, himself: characteristically cheerful and beautifully dressed:
Messrs. Allen, Burr, and Wilder. You’ll hear Fratello Sportiello soon:
Here is music to delight the angels, Joe’s EMBRACEABLE YOU:
and the Basie-flavored protestation of good humor, I AIN’T MAD AT YOU:
How fortunate I was to be there, and (without self-congratulation, I hope) how fortunate that I had a camera. Bless these four brilliant modest luminaries. In my thoughts, I embrace them all.
Eddy Davis — that bright light, never very far from his banjo, always ready to propel the band, to play the proper chords, to uplift everyone with song — one that he wrote or a venerable classic — moved on after his illness yesterday afternoon. My title for this post is because I think it will never be possible for me to think of him as was.
Eddy Davis and Conal Fowkes, Cafe Bohemia, Dec. 26, 2019.
Although I witnessed him in all his splendor over fifteen years, I didn’t get to know him in the way I might have others whom I saw and spoke to more regularly. So in Eddy’s case, the music — eloquent, subtle, brightly-colored — will speak for him here. The last time I saw him was December 26, 2019, at Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village, where he was one-fourth of that night’s swinging quartet: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, reeds and vocal; Conal Fowkes, string bass and vocal. I’ve presented a hot performance from that evening here.
And now, with more complicated emotions, I offer the first three performances of that night. They start off easily — I think of the way musicians feel the pulse of the room, get used to their instruments (even if it’s only been a day since they were last playing), take the measure of their friends on the stand. But don’t underestimate this music: I think of spicy cuisine that initially tastes tame but then after a few spoonfuls, you realize just how hot it is.
and some basic math — doin’ things right:
and a dream of the place where they make you welcome all the time:
I will devote the next few days to honoring the sly, expert, exuberant Eddy — through performances I captured and through the recollections of others who were at closer range . . . who were playing rather than behind a camera. He remains is.
And someone I respect deeply, Scott Robinson, has written this tender essay about Eddy, which I offer to you here:
I’ve just lost one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had in music. Eddy Davis was a highly significant and influential presence in my life. He was a fiercely individualistic performer… a veteran of the old Chicago days when music was hot, joyful, exuberant and unselfconscious. A character and a curmudgeon, who could hold court for hours after the gig. And a loving mentor who helped younger musicians like myself learn and grow in this music.
I had only played with Eddy a handful of times when he called me in late 1998 to say that he was forming a new band to fill a weekly Wednesday spot at the Cajun on 8th Avenue. He wanted me to play lead on C melody saxophone, in a little group with two reeds, and no drums. This by itself gives a clue to what an original thinker he was.
I already knew that Eddy was a proficient and highly individualistic stylist on the banjo, who sounded like no one else. What I didn’t know, but soon found out, was that this man was also a walking repository of many hundreds if not thousands of tunes of every description, ranging far beyond the standard repertoire… with a fascinating background story at the ready for nearly every one. I quickly learned that he was also a prolific and idiosyncratic composer himself, with a wonderfully philosophical work ethic: write original music every day, keep what works, and throw the rest away without a backward glance.
Eddy was also what used to be called a “character”: affable, opinionated, hilarious, and irascible all in one, and above all highly passionate about music. What I learned over the ensuing 7 ½ years in Eddy’s little band, I cannot begin to describe. I came to refer to those regular Wed. sessions as my “doctor’s appointment” — for they fixed whatever ailed me, and provided the perfect antidote to the ills of the world, and of the music scene. Over the years we were graced with the presence of some very distinguished musicians who came by and sat in with us, including Harry Allen, Joe Muranyi, Bob Barnard, Howard Johnson, and Barry Harris.
Eddy was generous with his strong opinions, with his knowledge and experience, and with his encouragement. But he was a generous soul in other ways as well. When he heard that I was building a studio (my “Laboratory”), he had me come by the apartment and started giving me things out of his closets. A Roland 24-track recorder… three vintage microphones… instruments… things that I treasure, and use every single day of my life. When my father turned 75, Eddy came out to New Jersey and played for him, and wouldn’t take a dime for it.
When I got the call today that Eddy had passed — another victim of this horrible virus that is ruining so many lives, and our musical life as well — I hung up the phone and just cried. Later I went out to my Laboratory, and kissed every single thing there that he had given to me. How cruel to lose such an irreplaceable person… killed by an enemy, as my brother commented, that is neither visible nor sentient.
THE CAJUN, by Barbara Rosene –a Wednesday night.
One night at the Cajun stands out in my memory, and seems particularly relevant today. It was the night after the last disaster that changed New York forever: the World Trade Center attack. There was a pall over the city, the air was full of dust, and there was a frightful, lingering smell. “What am I doing here?” I thought. “This is crazy.” But somehow we all made our way to the nearly empty club. We were in a state of shock; nobody knew what to say. I wondered if we would even be able to play. We took the stage, looked at each other, and counted off a tune. The instant the first note sounded, I was overcome with emotion and my face was full of tears. Suddenly I understood exactly why we were there, why it was so important that we play this music. We played our hearts out that night — for ourselves, for our city, and for a single table of bewildered tourists, stranded in town by these incomprehensible events. They were so grateful for the music, so comforted by it.
The simple comfort of live music has been taken from us now. We must bear this loss, and those that will surely follow, alone… shut away in our homes. I know that when the awful burden of this terrible time has finally been lifted, when we can share music, life, and love again, it will feel like that night at the Cajun. My eyes will fill, my heart will sing, and the joy that Eddy Davis gave me will be with me every time I lift the horn to my face, for as long as I live.
I could introduce this post in several ways: a reference to Irving Berlin’s THE SONG IS ENDED in my title, a memory of Faulkner’s character Gavin Stevens, “The past isn’t dead; it’s not even past,” or perhaps Shelley:
Music, when soft voices die, Vibrates in the memory—
All true. But I’d prefer to start with the mundane before presenting magical vibrating sounds. I have spent more than a month in the emotion-charged task of tidying my apartment. No sandwiches under the bed — in my world, food gets eaten — or inches of dust, since I do know how to use standard cleaning tools (even when I neglect to). It is more a matter of sifting through things that had been put into piles “for when I have time,” which I now do. And I was rewarded by objects I once thought lost coming back to me of their own accord.
One such delight is an assortment of videos, created but now often forgotten, that I had shot at Jazz at Chautauqua: I’ve shared some of them already: fourteen such postings since February 2018: search for “Chautauqua” and they will jump into your lap.
But here are three “new” previously unseen masterpieces from the informal Thursday-night session at Chautauqua — by a quartet of subtle wizards of melody, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass. And Joe Wilder, not the young hero of the Fifties but — if possible — more subtle, more deep, more able to touch our hearts.
The videos aren’t perfect. The piano could have been tuned more recently. Heads are in the way, some famous, and the image I achieved with that camera is not perfectly sharp. DON’T BLAME ME ends abruptly and incompletely — my fault. But I marvel at the music and hope you will also.
‘DEED I DO, where Joe leaps in exuberantly:
JUST SQUEEZE ME:
I am saving the closing two performances from this session for another post: it would not be right to choke you with an excess of beauty all at once. And when I think about the blessings of the second half of my life, I include the friendly respect of the musicians here — the gracious living trio and Joe. When I think that Joe spoke to me, wrote to me, and laughed with me, my joy and awe are immense . . . but he extended the gift of his warm self to so many, I know I am not unique.
This post is sent as a gift to Solveig Wilder. And it is dedicated to the memory of Ed Berger and Joe Boughton, each of whom made beauty possible.
You wouldn’t imagine that the serious man (second from left in the photograph, holding a corner of the check) could inspire such joy, but it’s true. That fellow is my friend and friend to many, Manfred “Mannie” Selchow, jazz concert promoter, jazz scholar, enthusiast, and so much more. He even has his own Wikipedia page that gives his birthdate, his work history, and more — but it also says that he has organized more than thirty concert tours of Germany that have resulted in many joyous concerts and CDs from them (released on the Nagel-Heyer label) featuring Ralph Sutton, Marty Grosz, Harry Allen, Randy Sandke, Eddie Erickson, Menno Daams, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Barrett, Kenny Davern, Bob Wilber, Mark Shane, Rossano Sportiello, and hundreds more.
I first met Manfred through the mail: he had published a small but fascinating bio-discography of one of his great heroes, Edmond Hall (whom he heard in 1955 when Ed came to Germany with Louis). Eager as always, I wrote him to let him know about some Hall I’d heard that he hadn’t. We began corresponding and traded many tapes. The slim monograph grew into a huge beautiful book, PROFOUNDLY BLUE, and Manfred then began working on an even more expansively detailed one about Vic Dickenson, DING! DING! which I am proud to have been a small part of. In 2007, I visited him in his hometown for a weekend of music; I came over again in April 2016 for “Jazz im Rathaus,” which takes place in Imhove. This 2016 concert weekend was in celebration not only of thirty years of wonderful music, but of Manfred’s eightieth birthday.
The concert weekend was marvelous, full of music from the people you see below and others, including Nicki Parrott, Stephanie Trick, and Paolo Alderighi. However, one of the most satisfying interludes of the weekend took place near the end — a JATP-themed set led by Matthias Seuffert. And Matthias, who has excellent ideas, had this one: to play a blues for Mannie. Now, often “Blues for [insert name here]” is elegiac, since the subject has died. Happily, this isn’t the case. What it is, is a medium-tempo, rocking, cliche-free evocation of the old days made new — honoring our friend Mannie. The players are Bernard Flegar, drums; Niels Unbehagen, piano; Helge Lorenz, guitar; Nico Gastreich, string bass; Bert Boeren, trombone; Engelbert Wrobel, Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Menno Daams, Enrico Tomasso, trumpet. What a groove!
I think the world — in its perilous state — needs blues like this (homeopathically) to drive away the real ones we face, and this nearly ten-minute example of singular individuals working together lovingly in swing for a common purpose is a good model for all of us. Thanks to the always-inspiring Mannie for all he’s done and continues to do.
P.S. This post was originally prepared for the faithful readers and listeners shortly after the music was performed, but technical difficulties of a rather tedious sort interfered . . . and now you can see what we all saw a few years back. Thanks for holding, as they say in telephone conversations. And if Manfred is still somewhat computer-averse, I hope someone will share this post with him.
As an affirmation, “C’est si bon!” works for me — and it was a substantial hit for Louis, Eartha Kitt, and others in the early Fifties. Louis kept it in his repertoire for more than fifteen years, and it’s been recorded by Harry Allen, Eddie Erickson, Nicki Parrott, Abbey Lincoln, and Jaki Byard — which says that this simple tune has an appeal both deep and wide.
Here it is again — a sweet surprise when performed by Dawn Lambeth, vocal; Conal Fowkes, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet, at the 39th San Diego Jazz Fest last November:
I hope you caught Conal’s little offering of Louisness at :39. It would be reason to enjoy this video again. And as far as this trio: They’re so good!
It’s always a generous idea, karmically, to honor the Ancestors. If you’re trumpeter, singer, and composer Bob Merrill it’s not only easy but gratifying, because the Ancestor in question is his late father-in-law Joe Bushkin, pianist, trumpeter, singer, and composer.
The formulaic way to pay tribute to Joe would have been to assemble a band and have them play transcriptions of his famous recordings — from Berigan, Condon, Spanier, to his own performances. But that approach might have run into obstacles early. Joe was a singular pianist, whether he was musing his way through RELAXIN’ AT THE TOURO or dazzling us on HALLELUJAH! And fifteen minutes with YouTube shows Joe at his best as player and singer.
But Joe’s talents as a writer of songs have been overshadowed by his brilliance at the keyboard. He was fortunate in that Sinatra and Lee Wiley recorded OH, LOOK AT ME NOW; Bing sang HOT TIME IN THE TOWN OF BERLIN; Louis gave Joe and his new bride the wedding present of recording LOVELY WEATHER WE’RE HAVING.
Bob Merrill’s new CD, “TELL ME YOUR TROUBLES,” devoted to Joe’s songs — and it’s the first volume of several planned — is rather like Joe himself: melodic, light-hearted even when the lyrical thread is slightly somber. It’s a wonderfully varied offering, and rather than describe it first, I offer samples here (scroll down to the lower half of the page).
Not a simple presentation of songs with the same approach and instrumentation, the CD could have been called THE MANY FACES OF JOE BUSHKIN’S MUSIC, with each track a little dramatic presentation in itself. Some of the tracks so wittily and cleverly develop the theme that they sound like display numbers for a yet-to-be produced Broadway show. Consider HOT TIME IN THE TOWN OF BERLIN, which begins as if it were an unissued 78, with Bing’s wife Kathryn singing over a hot band, then morphs into the twenty-first century embodiment of the Andrews Sisters — Kathryn, Bob, Shannon Day, and Lisa Gary, over a modern arrangement for hip vocals over a shouting band. Nicki Parrott convincingly masquerades as a diner waitress for several minutes on BOOGIE WOOGIE BLUE PLATE.
MAN HERE PLAYS FINE PIANO has not one, but three pianists soloing and trading phrases: Rossano Sportiello, Laurence Hobgood, and John Colianni. Other pleasures here are the wildly virtuosic trombone of Wycliffe Gordon, who turns in a fine vocal — seriously evoking Hot Lips Page — on GOIN’ BACK TO STORYVILLE. Eric Comstock is responsible for a number of smooth, winning vocals: I especially admire his reading of WISE TO MYSELF, a song well worth performing in this century, and Bob himself sings splendidly (with a touch of New York wryness) as well. In case you don’t know his trumpet playing, it’s expert and swinging: he’s never at a loss for notes, and his brass battle with Wycliffe, who could overwhelm lesser players, is truly a draw. Bob has the best musical friends, as you will have noticed, in Nicki Parrott, Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Harry Allen, Steve Johns, and Adrian Cunningham. Yes, the CD is a loving evocation of Joe’s many talents, but son-in-law Bob is operating at the same level of swinging joy.
If this sounds like an exuberant, vivid musical package — full to the rim and never monotonous — you have a good idea of what TELL ME YOUR TROUBLES offers. And the music is framed by two wonderful anecdotes about Joe, told by his remarkable friends. At the close of the CD, Red Buttons delivers a sweet, naughty elegy which ends with a story about Joe, Bing, and some sleeping potions delivered in an unusual way. And the CD starts with Frank Sinatra, Joe’s long-time friend, telling a story about Joe and illicit stimulants. That tale is worth the price of admission in itself. And, for once, the CD itself comes in a splendid package with notes, stories, and photographs — much better than any download. You can buy this generous offering here.
Jazz fans get very wistful when dreaming of scenes that were only captured in words: the twenty chorus solos young Lester would take; Louis on the riverboats; Lips Page singing and playing the blues at the Riviera. But the recording machine has been the time-traveler’s best friend. Because of a variety of electrical devices, we have been able to go uptown to hear Frank Newton and Art Tatum; we’ve heard Charlie Christian, Oscar Pettiford, and Jerry Jerome in Minneapolis; we can visit YouTube and hear Lester sing A LITTLE BIT SOUTH OF NORTH CAROLINA.
This new issue, explained boldly by its cover picture, is one of those time-travel marvels. I was alive in 1952, but no one was taking me to the Embers to hear Joe Bushkin’s quartet with Buck Clayton, trumpet; Milt Hinton, string bass; Jo Jones, drums. But now — somewhat older, thanks to this beautifully-produced disc on the Dot Time Records label — I can visit that club and hear exalted music any time I want.
This was a celebrated quartet, and for good reason. Buck and Jo were a fulfilling pair from around 1936 for perhaps forty years; Milt and Jo were also one of the most gratifying teams in the music. The three of them were at their peak in this period (although one could make a case that they were among the most consistently inventive musicians in Mainstream jazz).
I’ve left the leader for last, because he’s rarely got the attention he deserved — although he certainly appeared with the greatest musicians: Bing, Billie, Louis, Lester, Bunny, Tommy Dorsey, Bobby Hackett, Lee Wiley, Eddie Condon . . . a Bushkin discography is astonishing. Musicians knew, admired, and valued him. But his glistening style has led some casual listeners to hear him shallowly, the vivid, mobile approach to the piano as a display of technique. But when one hears Bushkin closely, there is a real lyricism underneath the facility, and an equally deep love for the blues: in the ancient argot, he is a real barrelhouse player, even in a pricey Upper East Side supper club.
And although Joe was not allowed to chat or to sing on this gig (a matter of arcane tax laws in cabarets) his bubbling sense of humor, his ebullience, comes through in every note. With a different pianist, Buck, Jo, and Milt would have still made great jazz, but the result wouldn’t have been as much fun. And “fun” wasn’t a matter of goofy quotes or scene-stealing: Joe was a perfectly sensitive accompanist. (I saw three-quarters of this group: Jo, Milt, Joe, and Ruby Braff — create a ten-minute MOTEN SWING in 1975 — and Fifty-Fourth Street has never been the same.)
Unlike other reissues, this disc sparkles for another reason — explained beautifully in the liner notes by Bushkin’s devoted son-in-law, trumpeter Robert Merrill, here. That reason is the most gorgeous recorded sound you’ve ever heard at a live gig: there are people in the room, but their presence is not intrusive, and each instrument is heard as beautifully as if this session was in a studio. To learn more about the label’s Legends series, visit here. (Dot Time has also issued recordings by Mulligan and Ella — and a magnificent Louis series is coming out.)
As I wrote above, Joe ran with the best. I’ve posted this once before, but everyone sentient in the known world needs to hear and re-hear it:
And here’s Joe being interviewed by the genial Stuart Klein in 1985:
2017 is Joe’s centennial, so there are a variety of celebrations going on, appropriately. Recordings of the Joe Bushkin Songbook are on the way, and there’s something to leave the house and the computer for, a Highlights in Jazz (a series in its 45th year) concert: the Joe Bushkin Centennial Concert
featuring Wycliffe Gordon, Harry Allen, Eric Comstock, Ted Rosenthal, Spike Wilner, Nicki Parrott, Steve Johns and John Colliani, under the musical direction of Bob Merrill — and a surprise Guest as well. It will take place at 8 PM, on Thursday, May 4, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center at Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007.
One can purchase tickets by calling the box office [212-220-1460] or visiting www.tribecapac.org. Those who find the Post Office more consoling can mail a check made payable to highlights in Jazz for $50 per ticket (still a bargain, for those who have been to a club recently) to Highlights In Jazz, 7 Peter Cooper Road, Apt. 11E New York NY 10010. (Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope).
A concert celebrating Joe Bushkin will be fun. And the CD is a thorough pleasure.
I suspect that everyone who reads JAZZ LIVES has heard the magical sounds of Joe Bushkin‘s piano, songs, voice, and trumpet. My birthday celebration for him is a bit early — he was born on November 7, 1916, but I didn’t want to miss the occasion. (There will also be birthday cake in this post — at least a photograph of one.)
He moved on in late 2004, but as the evidence proves, it was merely a transformation, not an exit.
I marvel not only at the spare, poignant introduction but Bushkin’s sensitive support and countermelodies throughout.
“Oh, he was a Dixieland player?” Then there’s this:
and this, Joe’s great melody:
A list of the people who called Joe a friend and colleague would include Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Condon, Lee Wiley, Joe Marsala, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett,Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Bunny Berigan, Fats Waller, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Zoot Sims, Bill Harris, Buddy Rich, Hot Lips Page, Sidney Catlett, Judy Garland, Jimmy Rushing, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Spargo, Red McKenzie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Tough, Brad Gowans, Benny Goodman, Joe Rushton, Roy Eldridge, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Ruth Brown, June Christy, Barney Kessel, Pearl Bailey, Gene Krupa, Stuff Smith, Chuck Wayne, Jake Hanna . . .
Here’s a sweet swinging tribute to Irving Berlin in 1951 that segues into Joe’s own homage to Miss Bankhead, PORTRAIT OF TALLULAH:
He’s on Billie’s SUMMERTIME and Bunny’s first I CAN’T GET STARTED; he’s glistening in the big bands of Bunny, Tommy, and Benny. He records with Frank Newton in 1936 and plays with Kenny Davern, Phil Flanigan, Howard Alden, and Jake Hanna here, sixty-one years later:
But I’m not speaking about Joe simply because of longevity and versatility. He had an individual voice — full of energy and wit — and he made everyone else sound better.
A short, perhaps dark interlude. Watching and listening to these performances, a reader might ask, “Why don’t we hear more about this wonderful pianist who is so alive?” It’s a splendid question. In the Thirties, when Joe achieved his first fame, it was as a sideman on Fifty-Second Street and as a big band pianist.
Parallel to Joe, for instance, is Jess Stacy — another irreplaceable talent who is not well celebrated today. The erudite Swing fans knew Bushkin, and record producers — think of John Hammond and Milt Gabler — wanted him on as many record dates as he could make. He was a professional who knew how the music should sound and offered it without melodrama. But I suspect his professionalism made him less dramatic to the people who chronicle jazz. He kept active; his life wasn’t tragic or brief; from all I can tell, he didn’t suffer in public. So he never became mythic or a martyr. Too, the jazz critics then and now tend to celebrate a few stars at a time — so Joe, brilliant and versatile, was standing behind Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum, then and now. He was also entertaining — someone who could act, who could do a television skit with Bing and Fred, someone who could fill a club by making music, even for people who wouldn’t have bought a Commodore 78. Popularity is suspect to some people who write about art.
But if you do as I did, some months back, and play a Bushkin record for a jazz musician who hasn’t heard him before, you might get the following reactions or their cousins: “WHO is that? He can cover the keyboard. And he swings. His time is beautiful, and you wouldn’t mistake him for anyone else.”
One of the memorable moments of my twentieth century is the ten-minute YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY / MOTEN SWING that Joe, Ruby Braff, Milt Hinton, Wayne Wright, and Jo Jones improvised — about four feet in front of me — at the last Eddie Condon’s in 1976. “Memorable” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Consider this: Joe and his marvelous quartet (Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton or Sid Weiss, and Jo Jones) that held down a long-running gig at the Embers in 1951-2:
Something pretty and ruminative — Joe’s version of BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL:
And for me, and I suspect everyone else, the piece de resistance:
For the future: Joe’s son-in-law, the trumpeter / singer / composer Bob Merrill — whom we have to thank for the wire recording (!) of SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY — has organized what will be a stellar concert to celebrate his father-in-law’s centennial. Mark your calendars: May 4, 2017. Jack Kleinsinger’s “Highlights in Jazz” at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Ted Rosenthal, John Colianni, Eric Comstock, Spike Wilner, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Steve Johns, drums; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Adrian Cunningham, clarinet; Bob Merrill, trumpet; Warren Vache, cornet; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; and of course a surprise guest.
Here’s the promised photograph of a birthday cake. Perculate on THIS: