Tag Archives: Herman Records

“SECOND REUNION”: THE UNION RHYTHM KINGS ON DISC and LIVE

The Union Rhythm Kings at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party

The Union Rhythm Kings at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party

The debut CD of this wonderful hot band, A HOT REUNION, on Herman Records, came out in 2009.  So the second one is long overdue, and I am happy to report that it is here, and as delightful as its predecessor.  (I am grateful to Trygve Hernaes, the band’s enthusiastic guide and supporter, for enabling me to hear them on disc before I’d met them all in person.)

The band, the Union Rhythm Kings, is a wonderful hot hybrid of Norwegian and Swedish musicians — Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Bent Persson, trumpet; Lars Frank, reeds; Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano, Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Jacob Ullberger, banjo / guitar.  For the geographers keeping score, Kris, Lars, and Morten are from Norway; Bent, Frans, and Jacob from Sweden. The band even has its own Wikipedia page.

What sets the URK apart (and above) many other “traditional” jazz bands is the excellence of their solo and ensemble work, expert and impassioned, and free from cliche.  They are inspired by the original recordings and arrangements, but they bring their own energy to the repertoire.  They’ve broken free of the Jazz Museum.

On this disc, much of that repertoire is comfortable Morton, Ellington, Armstrong, Luis Russell, and Beiderbecke — but the URK takes pleasure in Jack Purvis and obscure Morton. Thus, CLARINET MARMALADE, CROCODILE CRADLE, DAVENPORT BLUES, SARATOGA SHOUT, HUMPTY DUMPTY, WHEN YOU’RE FEELING BLUE, I DIDN’T KNOW, I AIN’T GOT NOBODY, MILENBERG JOYS, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, WHAT’S THE USE OF CRYIN’, BABY, SANTA CLAUS BLUES, BLUES OF THE VAGABOND, SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, DUSKY STEVEDORE.

I’ve listened to them with great pleasure at their recent annual appearances at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, and I have some performance video from November 5-8 to share with you — which will embody the band’s virtues better than paragraphs of enthusiastic prose.  The great young drummer Nick Ball helps out on all these performances.

Here are four from their Sunday-evening concert:

DAVENPORT BLUES:

BLUES OF THE VAGABOND:

HUMPTY DUMPTY:

CLARINET MARMALADE:

and four from the Thursday-night pub session:

In honor of the Luis Russell band, SARATOGA SHOUT:

For solitaries everywhere, I AIN’T GOT NOBODY:

and these last two (with Bix in mind), with Thomas Winteler sitting in for Lars:

SORRY:

JAZZ ME BLUES:

The URK discs (beautifully recorded), can be obtained from Sonor Records AS,
Postboks 4275, NO 7436 Trondheim, Norway.  Information at email: sonoras@online.no.  Price: NOK 200 or USD 25, packing and postage included. Payment via Paypal, to the email address above.

May your happiness increase!

MISTER KRIS AND MISTER TEA

The story of Jack Teagarden’s appearance in New York in 1927 has the feeling of legend.  At a speakeasy, the young man from Texas astonishes everyone with a solo rendition of DIANE, then the blues.  Teagarden didn’t live long enough for anyone’s taste, but in the years that followed he continued to astonish and please musicians and audiences with his remarkable combination of relaxed ease and wondrous technical mastery.

Fast forward: I first encountered the brilliant young Norwegian trombonist Kristoffer Kompen at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival in 2011.  (I’d heard him first on the UNION RHYTHM KINGS compact disc — learn more here and here on this blog.  Type in “Kompen” in the search box on JAZZ LIVES, you can see and hear him play.)

Initially, Kris came on roaring like J.C. Higginbotham in the latter’s most fiery 1929-40 form.  I saw musicians staring at him in delighted wonder while he played, and I imagined them thinking, “Who is he?  Where did he come from?  And how does he play so well at his age?”

Yes, it is a critical cliche to call a young player “astonishingly mature,” but in Kris’s case the phrase is accurate.  He will be thirty in 2014 (I pause to let those numbers sink in).  He plays with a young man’s energy and delight . . . but with the intelligence, feeling, restraint, and taste of a much older player.

When he performed a tribute to Teagarden at last year’s Whitley Bay, it was again astonishing.  Without repeating Big T’s solos note-for-note, he had absorbed the glossy tone, the seemingly endless flow of ideas, the flying inventiveness, the deep sonorities, the wellsprings of feeling that were the heart of Teagarden’s style, on an uptempo LOVER or a slow blues.

I am delighted to report to you that Kris’ second CD has appeared on the Herman label (the creation of our friend Trygve Hernaes), recorded in April 2013 in Oslo — it’s called A TRIBUTE TO JACK TEAGARDEN, and it truly lives up to its name.  Jack didn’t sound like anyone else when he appeared, and Kris has accomplished the great art of playing himself while honoring the Master.

It’s not imitation but homage, and it’s beautiful throughout.

On the disc, he’s aided by a sweetly intuitive rhythm section, and the vocals are taken by the guitarist Borre Frydenlund, who manages to summon up Jack’s depths without copying him precisely.  The songs are all first-rate choices: BABY WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? / I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES / LOVER / A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY / DIANE / NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN / LOVE ME / OLD FOLKS / I SWUNG THE ELECTION / MIS’RY AND THE BLUES / SWINGIN’ ON THE TEAGARDEN GATE / STARS FELL ON ALABAMA.

Here is STARS FELL ON ALABAMA from the CD:

And a live version of MIS’RY AND THE BLUES:

A live version of LOVER, which begins with The Master:

You can find out more about Kris, his many selves (as a composer, too)

here, and you can order the CD here.

May your happiness increase!

HOT REUNION! THE UNION RHYTHM KINGS on CD

On April 17, when I wrote a few lines about this wonderful hot band (see UNION RHYTHM KINGS) I had already had the pleasure of hearing several tracks from their debut CD on their MySpace page.  Now, through the kindness of Trygve Hernaes, the CD’s executive producer, I’ve heard the disc, called A HOT REUNION.  That it is!  Astonishing music, precise yet abandoned, fierce yet relaxed — the qualities that characterizes the best jazz, perhaps the finest art.  And the band’s “heat” is not a matter of speed and volume; most of the performances on this disc are at at medium tempos, but they swing and stomp remarkably.

The band title, I now know, harks back to the peaceable union of Norway and Sweden (1814-1905), and it’s not a history lesson.  Three members of the URK (Bent Persson, cornet / trumpet;  Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Jacob Ullberger, banjo/guitar) are Swedish; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Lars Frank, reeds, and Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano, are Norwegian.  A most equitable balance, giving new meaning to the idea of a “mixed band.”  Kristoffer and Lars are stars of the Jazzin’ Babies; Bent, Frans, and Jacob play and record as the Hot Jazz Trio, and Morten is an institution unto himself.

The CD pays tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, and (by extension) Bing Crosby with AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL, THE LOVE NEST, YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME, WA-DA-DA, RHYTHM KING, JAZZ ME BLUES, and ROYAL GARDEN BLUES; it honors Louis and King Oliver with KEYHOLE BLUES and CHATTANOOGA STOMP; Jelly Roll Morton has his moments with THE CHANT, KANSAS CITY STOMPS, THE PEARLS, and BLACK BOTTOM STOMP.  That would be enough for anyone — but this band has a particular fondness for the music that Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham made while members of the Luis Russell Orchestra, perhaps the hottest band on record in 1929-30: the URK revisits DOCTOR BLUES and HIGGINBOTHAM BLUES.

Some readers might think, “Do I really need another version of ROYAL GARDEN BLUES”?

Yes, when the Union Rhythm Kings play it.

Much of the repertoire above from 1923-30 has already been explored by “traditional” bands all over the world.  And if you were to listen to all those recordings, an arduous task, you would note many “recreations” and many “improvisations.”  Some bands feel that the only way to pay our ancestors proper homage is to treat the Victors, OKehs, and Gennetts as sacred text to be copied note for note.  Although this can be electrifying when done expertly in concert, for example, it has serious philosophical limitations.  And simply “jamming” on ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, for instance, means that once the players are through the first two strains, it’s a medium-tempo blues, perhaps characterless.

The URK steer between these two extremes: their performances take inspiration, shape, and often tempos from the originals, but the solos are fresh, inventive.  And the results are glorious.  Hearing CHATTANOOGA STOMP, I thought, for the first time, “This must have been what the Creole Jazz Band really sounded like.”  Now, it didn’t hurt that each man here is a brilliant soloist, “tops on his instrument for tonation and phrasing,” and that each soloist knows the repertoire intimately.  But they all are brilliant team players.  Often, collections of “all-stars” turn out to be exercises in ego, muted or open, with the players less concerned about creating a band than about playing their solo.  Nothere.

And the CD is brimful with additional delights: on-target notes by trumpeter Mike Durham (who really can write!), and beautiful SACD Surround Sound.

I originally wanted to title this post THE STUFF IS HERE AND IT’S MELLOW, but I thought my esoteric reference to the marijuana culture of the Thirties might be too arcane.  But mellow the music is, indeed.

You can purchase this CD by contacting the producer, Trygve Hernaes, at Sonor as/Herman Records, Postbox 4275, NO-7436 Trondheim, Norway, or via email: sonoras@online.no., or trygve.hernes@bntv.no.  A CD costs $25, and payments can be made only by MasterCard or Visa, but this hot music is worth the effort.  I look forward to many more such reunions!

UNION RHYTHM KINGS

Bent Persson, the amazing trumpeter / cornetist, has a new band.  It includes Frans Sjostrom, the genius of the bass saxophone, the inimitable Morten Gunnar Larsen on piano, reedman Lars Frank, Kristoffer Kompen on trombone, and the versatile Jacob Ullberger on banjo and guitar.  (Lars and Kristoffer are new to me, so I haven’t invented adjectives for them, but they are fine players indeed.)

union-rhythm-kingsAnd here’s the link to the band’s MySpace page, where you can hear them romp through five selections from their debut CD on Herman Records:

http://www.myspace.com/unionrhythmkings

A blog is about sharing pleasure as well as information: I hope I’ve fulfilled my moral obligations for the morning!