Tag Archives: Henry David Thoreau

THE BASIE WAY: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT HONORS COUNT BASIE at WHITLEY BAY (Nov. 3, 2013)

William Basie persists as a model and mentor even though he is no longer at the keyboard. Regarding the world with a cheerful amused skepticism, he embodied truths long before they were adopted as cultural cliche: less is more; the medium is the message; ‘t’ain’t what ‘cha do; give away those things not meant for you; the blues cure the blues.

Basie would have brushed such praise away, but he is Thoreau who chose the bandstand over the beanfield, a great abstract painter without a brush; a prophet whose message was primarily silence and joy, making the universe swing.

We can’t go backwards to the youthful glory of the Basie band of the late Thirties, except by listening to the airshots, the Deccas, and the Columbias, but this band has some of the unbuttoned joyous energy of the real thing (with a few leaps forward).  It’s not an outright imitation, which is a good thing, but it moves in the same happy directions.

This endearing evocation — captured at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — is led by Matthias Seuffert, reeds, with Jean-Francois Bonnel, Gavin Lee, Claus Jacobi, saxophones; Duke Heitger, Ben Cummings, Andy Woon, trumpets; Alistair Allan, Graham Hughes, trombone; Keith Nichols, piano; Roly Veitch, guitar; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

JIVE AT FIVE:

LESTER LEAPS IN:

A more recent effort in this swinging manner, Buck Clayton’s CLAYTONIA (originally recorded for Vanguard in 1957, then brought to life once more for the Buck Clayton Legacy Band, still floating):

SHOE SHINE BOY (evoking Chicago, 1936):

BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL (for Herschel):

POUND CAKE:

and a leisurely romp through ONE O’CLOCK JUMP:

Let us live our lives the Basie way — gently improving the universe as we go.

May your happiness increase!

KILGORE SWINGS EMERSON

In SELF-RELIANCE, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home.” BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD, written by Dave Dreyer, Billy Rose, and Al Jolson in 1928 (I would give almost all of the credit to Mr. Dreyer) makes the same claim in a different way. It proposes that home is so lovely that it makes travel unnecessary, and that those who roam find their greatest happiness when they return — nostalgia more than transcendentalism, perhaps, but the effect is the same.

Rebecca Kilgore doesn’t present herself as a philosopher, although she does hail from Massachusetts, home of Emerson, Thoreau, and the Alcotts, but she makes this philosophical statement exultant in its hopefulness and its swing.

This performance was recorded at the 26th San Diego Jazz Party, on February 22, 2014.  The other philosophers on the stand are Chuck Redd, drums; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Eddie Erickson, guitar; Johnny Varro, piano; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Antti Sarpila, clarinet.

Home is where such music is.

May your happiness increase!

MAKING MERRY at MONTEREY 2012: A REYNOLDS BROTHERS JAM SESSION with JOHN SHERIDAN, ALLAN VACHE, JOHN COCUZZI, DAWN LAMBETH, and SUE KRONINGER (March 4, 2012)

Some jazz parties and festivals visibly deflate in their final hours.  Not the 2012 Jazz Bash by the Bay — also known as Dixieland Monterey.  This was, for me, the final set of the three-day blowout, and it was a delight.

Once again, the sly truth came out: the Reynolds Brothers don’t have the international reputation their music deserves, and on some festival bills they aren’t the band whose name appears in the largest font.

But they exude jazz pheronomes — or, to put it more simply, the best musicians on the bill always make it a point to sit in with John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Katie Cavera, and Marc Caparone.  It’s the jazz equivalent of a civilian finding the restaurant where the chefs eat on their night off.  The noble sitters-in were John Sheridan, piano; Allan Vache, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, unamplified vibraphone.  “Three Johns, no waiting,” says Mr. John Reynolds at the start.

The set started right off with an enthusiastic affirmation — saying YES to life is a good thing! — I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

Another affirmation, even when it’s couched as a question by way of Fats Waller, AIN’T ‘CHA GLAD?:

One of Ralf’s many secrets is that he did graduate work in European history . . . who better to instruct the crowd in historical geography with CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS . . . making Merry, of course.  Merry says hello:

From raillery to romance with the help of Dawn Lambeth, the living embodiment of what Louis called “tonation and phrasing,” her subtly textured voice and her speaking rubatos beautifully on display in SUGAR (with majestically quiet help from John Sheridan):

What might seem odd, an instrumental version of a song associated with Bing Crosby, works perfectly, with Marc leading the way into YOUNG AND HEALTHY:

A friend of the music and one of the gracious shapers of the Jazz Bash by the Bay, Sue Kroninger — also a dynamic singer — joined in with WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO, giving Allan a chance to show off his version of early Benny to great advantage with Hamp Cocuzzi and Teddy Sheridan in hot pursuit.  1936, anyone?:

The tempo had to slow down — so here’s a tender I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING.  Beneath that serious exterior, John Sheridan is a deep romantic — and his playing of the verse is just another glorious piece of evidence.  And it’s not just the verse!  Listening to this one again, I think it might have been one of the highlights of the whole weekend:

John’s choice of THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN is always a wise one — not only is it a romping song, but its political / ethical sentiments continue to strike chords today — Thoreau in swingtime:

And — to close — CRAZY RHYTHM — a rendition that truly lives up to its name with a cutting contest or a conversation between Ralf on washboard and John on vibraphone — or at least parts of his vibraphone — that has to be seen to be believed.  Or something like that.  Crazy, man, crazy! (With very strong echoes of a Hampton Victor circa 1937, too.):

Thank you, Reynolds Brothers.  Thank you, friends.  Thank you, Merry.  Thank you, Jazz Bash by the Bay.  I’m ready to make my room reservations for March 2013.  Just let me know the dates!  Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay is a proven source of joy.

May your happiness increase.

SUBTLY SWINGING: DAN LEVINSON, MOLLY RYAN, MARK SHANE, CONNIE JONES, HOWARD ALDEN at SWEET AND HOT 2011

That title, I hope, says it all.  This session took place at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival in Los Angeles — on September 4, 2011, at the upwardly mobile aerie called Cheap Seats, a tiny room on the eighteenth floor.  It was crowded, for very good reason, and I had to use all my wiles and obstinacy to get in, stay in, and video-record over the protests of a well-intentioned volunteer concerned about the fire laws, but I am glad I practiced my passive resistance a la Thoreau and captured this session for JAZZ LIVES.

It began as yet another chamber-jazz outing for the trio of Dan Levinson (clarinet and tenor); Mark Shane (piano); Molly Ryan (voice and rhythm guitar), with the astronomical marvel (much more than “guest star”) cornetist Connie Jones.  Later in the set a noble visitor came in: the title gives it away, but Howard Alden is always welcome on the bandstand: here he brought his acoustic guitar and added so much to the proceedings.

The quartet began the set with a sweet / silly Thirties song I associate with Shirley Temple in a film — but more to the point, with Edythe Wright and Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven.  Kevin Dorn wasn’t on the stand, so you have to imagine “Take it away, Davey,” all on your own:

Next was BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, which went from sweetly rustic / nostalgic very quickly.  Don’t look away from the monitor to check on dinner, for around 2:20 Dan comes back into camera view apparently dragging a miscreant (a jazz “perp”) onto the stand . . . Mr. Alden, who manages to unpack and join in the choruses:

Molly Ryan is a very agreeable young woman, so it would make perfect sense for her to sing the anthem of assent, ‘DEED I DO:

On a Hines-Noone kick?  Here’s BLUES IN THIRDS:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS usually closes the night’s entertainment, but here it shows off the brilliance of Howard Alden, who performed it so memorably (behind the scenes) in Woody Allen’s SWEET AND LOWDOWN:

One of the wonderful quasi-spiritual exhortations of the early Thirties, suggesting that music could cure one’s tendencies towards evil, SING YOU SINNERS:

The set ended most beautifully — not with a rouser full of climaxes, but with something tender and most sweet, SAY IT WITH A KISS (echoing Maxine, Billie, and a bygone era of love songs):

Just a family note: the fellow to the left (blue flowered shirt, video camera) isn’t me by some trick of telekinesis: that’s Molly’s devoted father, eager to record every note for posterity.  And rightly so!