Tag Archives: Hot Classicism

APPLY HEAT: “HOT CLASSICISM” (KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH) IN NEW ORLEANS, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

I’ve posted a good deal by this very satisfying band: Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, hereherehere — and a few other posts.  You could search them out without too much fuss.

Their first CD!

Because to me this music is very lively, spicy, and energizing, here are a few more gratifying performances from their evening gig in New Orleans’ Snug Harbor (during the last Steamboat Stomp) on September 25, 2016.

Very mellow, very groovy, SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY:

Is there a causal link — that she was once FUNNY THAT WAY and now she’s NOBODY’S SWEETHEART?  Calling all psychotherapists and cultural critics:

Even though it’s a warm August, chiles are good for you, so HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN:

The title of this Irving Berlin classic causes great merriment in the balcony, A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:

Albert Wynn’s 1928 ecstasy, PARKWAY STOMP:

FORTY AND TIGHT (“Use your imagination,” says Kris.):

And the rallying call for this magnificent trio, STOMP OFF, LET’S GO:

Restorative, curative, no prescription needed: “Apply Hot Classicism to the inflamed area and the afflicted soul. Repeat as desired.”

May your happiness increase!

BY ENLIGHTENED POPULAR DEMAND! MORE FROM HOT CLASSICISM — KRIS TOKARSKI, HAL SMITH, ANDY SCHUMM (Snug Harbor, Sept. 25, 2017)

I love this little band.  There!  I’ve said it.  Kris Tokarski, piano; Hal Smith, drums; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet.  Snug Harbor, New Orleans, September 25, 2016.

HOT CLASSICISM is on the move!  And this posting is in honor of Brother Hal, for many reasons, obvious and otherwise.

FORGET-ME-NOT (with ties to Bix and Whiteman):

SUNDAY (from 1927 on, a reliable mood-improver):

STOMP OFF, LET’S GO! (thanks to Erskine Tate and that chubby young man from Back O’Town):

SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE (a dance we all love — more about it here):

ANGRY (not really, just excited, courtesy of the NORK):

More to come.  Yes, still more!

May your happiness increase!

MORE FROM “HOT CLASSICISM” — KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH — at SNUG HARBOR, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

The trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Hal Smith, drums; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet, called HOT CLASSICISM, is one of the most consistently satisfying jazz groups I know.

Here are a few more delights from their chamber recital in New Orleans last September.

A modern version of the Jelly Roll Morton – King Oliver duet on KING PORTER STOMP, scored for cornet and piano:

“Chicago style,” dirty but not unclean — fully realized on this rendition of MECCA FLAT BLUES:

PARKWAY STOMP (which, if my ears are right, is a very close cousin to Shelton Brooks’ DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL, and the 1928 recording originally featured Al Wynn, Punch Miller, and a very young Sidney Catlett).  In Big Sid’s honor, Hal “whips them cymbals” with precision and energy:

and, finally, for this interlude, an evocation of “the dear boy” from Iowa:

There will be more from this glorious compact inspired band to come.

May your happiness increase!

TRIO SONATAS FOR CLARINET, PIANO, and PERCUSSION, OPUS 9.25.16: KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH at SNUG HARBOR

No, not Cortot-Thibaud- Casals, or any more formally garbed trio.  Rather, another visit to the marvelously melodic world of Hot Classicism, the trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, described here.

One of the pleasures of visiting New Orleans last September for the Steamboat Stomp was the opportunity to visit some places new to me off the steamboat, one of them being Snug Harbor — living up to its name — to hear the trio perform on September 25, 2016.  I posted five glowing performances, glowing even in the purple haze, here, some time back, so now it’s time for more.

What makes these performances a little different is that they all have Andy on clarinet, which he plays with his usual passion and precision, here summoning up Noone, Dodds, early Benny, Don Murray, Fud, Tesch, Mezz who had stuck to practicing, and a few others — all nicely combined in his own beautiful personal synthesis. Incidentally, Andy does play some cornet here, but you already noticed that.  Kris and Hal show why they are intensely and intently reliable, creative, swinging, and surprising.

And some beautifully obscure, seldom-played songs to improvise on.

I’D RATHER CRY OVER YOU:

ORIENTAL MAN (where “Oriental” means generically Asiatic rather than Chinese, if I recall correctly):

FORGET-ME-NOT:

RED RIVER BLUES (with the most gorgeous Hal Smith press rolls):

There’s more to come from this peerless hot chamber trio.

May your happiness increase!

“IS IT HOT IN HERE?” “NO, IT’S THE BAND”: HOT CLASSICISM ON THE RIVER (KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH) SEPT. 23, 2016, PART TWO

HOT CLASSICISM is the name adopted by Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums.  I am proud to know them and happy to hear them.  This is the second part of their set on the Steamboat Natchez during the 2016 Steamboat Stomp; here is the first.

What follows is another lively tour of all the shadings of hot, inspired by the heroes of Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and elsewhere — precision without stuffiness, eagerness without chaos.  The repertoire is classic but not exhausted, and the performances are vibrant.

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:

MISTER JOE:

JUST GONE:

MY GAL SAL:

TOM CAT BLUES (a duet for Andy and Kris):

STOMP OFF, LET’S GO!:

Wonderful cohesive inspired music.  Follow Kris, Hal, and Andy on Facebook to track down their next gigs.

May your happiness increase!

“FROGGIE MOORE” and SO MUCH MORE: HOT CLASSICISM ON THE RIVER (KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH) SEPT. 23, 2016

hot-classicism

What’s hot, has six legs, and floats?  Easy.  HOT CLASSICISM, the trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, when they’re on board the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River — in this case, Saturday, September 23, 2016, as part of last year’s Steamboat Stomp.  But you knew the answer already.  (And in the name of accuracy, they float even when on dry land — musically, that is.)

Here’s the first half of a hot, historical but expansively creative set that this trio performed for us on the boat: with admiring glances at Jelly Roll Morton, Tiny Parham, King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Doc Cooke, Freddie Keppard, Albert Wynn, Sidney Catlett, Punch Miller, and dozens of New Orleans and Chicago hot players whose names you would also know.

This Morton tune is called FROG-I-MORE or FROGGIE MOORE RAG (I think those are all the variants) and Mister Morton said it was named for a vaudeville contortionist.  No doubt:

SUNDAY, a tune that all the musicians in the world love to play, takes me back to Jean Goldkette in 1927, even though the Keller Sisters and Lynch didn’t make it to the boat:

Are your tamales hot?  They should be.  Freddie Keppard’s were:

A beautiful slow groove:

I could be wrong, but I think PARKWAY STOMP is a romp on the changes of DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL — something that was being done long before ANTHROPOLOGY and ORINTHOLOGY.  The Albert Wynn recording with Punch Miller is also an early Sidney Catlett recording, something the Honorable Hal Smith knows well:

Who remembers Tiny Parham?  Jen Hodge does, and I do, and Milt Hinton did.  So does HOT CLASSICISM:

What a wonderful hot band!  There’s another serving to come, but until then, you might investigate this delight.  And HOT CLASSICISM has gigs to come: follow Kris, Hal, Andy on Facebook.  You will be rewarded for diligence.

May your happiness increase!

“HOT CLASSICISM” by KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH on DISC (and LIVE)

If it were possible to play a compact disc to extinction, my copy of HOT CLASSICISM would be gone by now.  Amazingly, the disc is starting to look translucent.

What it contains is the rousing and lovely performances by Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet or clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, recorded live in New Orleans at the Old U.S. Mint on January 13, 2016.  Here’s a sample — the rollicking PARKWAY STOMP:

Several of the performances appeared as videos on YouTube, but the fidelity of the CD is immensely superior, and you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) play videos in the car unless you are a passenger, so I commend this disc to you with high enthusiasm.

hot-classicism

HOT CLASSICISM was produced by Kris.  You can order a copy at his website, here, and if you are in New Orleans come see the trio’s CD release show. This Saturday, the 24th, at 8:15 PM they play at the Steamboat Stomp and Sunday the 25th, they are at Snug Harbor, with sets at 8 and 10 PM.

hot-c-photoHere’s what I wrote for the CD.  In full candor, I insisted on writing something for them, and would have been very put out if they had said NO.  I believe in this music and these musicians with all my being.

One of my favorite quotations is “We cannot ask the dead to come back. We can, however, invite them to live through us.” This CD is a vibrant, generous conversation between the Ancestors and three very much alive Jazz Masters. Kris, Andy, and Hal know that Lester was right, that you have to “go for yourself.” But innovation is a Mobius strip: try to be yourself by rejecting the Past and you might run dry in mid-chorus. The Elders were innovative in their moment. We revere them but we honor the past by making it new.

“Hot classicism” is the phrase that came to my mind when I first encountered these magically conjoined kindred souls, their music an instantaneous wallop of bliss that hasn’t faded yet. In this trio, everything is in balance. It’s a true Hot Democracy where everyone gets a chance to blow, where musicians support one another for “the comfort of the band.” Listening to this joyous session, I also thought of the great classical chamber trios and quartets: Casals-Thibaud-Cortot, for one example. In those groups, even though musicians were following printed scores, their sensibilities, temperaments, and vocal timbres blazed through. Someone listening to an unnamed violinist on radio or record recognized the player: Szigeti, not Heifetz; Stuff, not Stephane. And those personalities blended in wondrous synergy.

“Hot,” everyone knows as the remarkable marriage of passionate abandon and exquisite control. These performances, as Hot as you could want, are technically splendid, idiomatically pleasing. But here’s the beautiful part: they are marvelous because the players know what not to play, how to leave space. They know that too much is not a good thing, with apologies to Mae West and Oscar Wilde. Hal, Kris, and Andy embody ancient virtues: how to say your piece eloquently in sixteen bars; how to create memorable syncopated dance music. And since they are temporal hybrids – living simultaneously in 1926, 1936, and 2016, a very pleasing subversive freedom animates these performances. These musicians roam freely in a universe of sounds. They bring their modern awareness to the sacred texts of the past. Consider Andy’s clarinet playing, which reflects the great Chicagoans and New Orleanians but also delineates an alternate universe where Milt Mesirow put in that ten thousand hours of practice. So the music here, although deeply devout, goes its own way. If there’s a harmony or a rhythmic suspension that works at that moment, this trio offers it joyously, even if Keppard would have frowned on it.

James Joyce said of ULYSSES, not humbly but perhaps accurately, that if Dublin were to be destroyed, it could be built again from his novel. And if all the monumental jazz recordings prior to, say, 1930 were to vanish, one could rebuild the Hot Library of Alexandria from this CD.

Some listeners (they can’t help themselves) will compulsively start a list of Influences and Models that they hear. I won’t. This CD is completely endearing because it’s music. Let others point out, “Oh, that’s exactly the note that Kid Wawa plays on take 17, the take that only came out on Beka 12666-4!” I say, “Don’t these fellows sound grand, utterly like themselves?”

The only thing missing from this session is a band vocal: I think of the three of them humming behind a Kris solo passage or (dare I dream) hearing the trio warble the ode containing the heroic couplet, “You bought my wife a Coca-Cola / So you could play on her Victrola.” Maybe on the second disc of this trio’s oeuvre.

Andy, Kris, and Hal create affectionate wise music that amazes us, touches our hearts, helps make our world dance. Infinitely complex yet plain as day, their music enriches us.

Don’t be the last one on your block to experience HOT CLASSICISM.

May your happiness increase!

LYRICAL SWING: KRIS TOKARSKI, TIM LAUGHLIN, HAL SMITH (Evergreen Jazz Festival, July 31, 2016)

When it’s genuine, casual yet expert, you know it — no artifice laid on here to substitute for heartfelt swing and melodic improvisation.  Yes, there are shadows of various Ancestors and Elders — name them at your leisure — but the music made by Kris Tokarski, piano; Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, is fresh and soulful and eager.  These three performances come from a blissful time in the Colorado mountains — more prosaic folks would call it the Evergreen Jazz Festival — and these were recorded at a local restaurant, The Fire Pit, on July 31.  First, a lover’s astonished delight:

Variations on the same emotional theme, after a fashion (an earlier song):

and a delightful blues line — so simple, but so deep — honoring both its creator, Jimmie Noone, and a whole era of Chicago inventiveness:

I am posting these performances not only because I love them but I have the immense good fortune to be writing this from a very pleasant hotel room in New Orleans, where I am because of Duke Heitger’s wonderful Steamboat Stomp, going on tomorrow through Sunday.  I’ll see and hear this trio there, and Kris has a new CD out, HOT CLASSICISM, which is an absolute delight — with Hal and Andy Schumm.  (I will have more to say about that one soon.)

Even if you can’t get down to New Orleans right quick, you can certainly savor these Joys.

May your happiness increase!

CARE TO STOMP? (September 23-25, 2016)

It’s never too early to think about a Stomp.  And not just any Stomp — but the fourth annual Steamboat Stomp, held in New Orleans . . . for the most part, on the river, while the Steamboat Natchez lazily goes up and down the Mississippi, the bands are playing, or the steam calliope is wailing, the food and drink are being offered.

STEAMBOAT STOMP 2016 poster

If my words aren’t sufficiently evocative, let this image sink in:

Steamboat Natchez. Photograph by John Snell.

Steamboat Natchez. Photograph by John Snell.

Here’s the Stomp’s Facebook page where you can learn more, buy tickets, make hotel reservations, and get yourself in the mood for Stomping.  (For those of you who resist the charms of Facebook, please note that the poster has the Stomp’s web address, also information about the chosen hotel.)

I have been fortunate enough to be part of the 2013 and 2015 Stomps — and I brought my self and my camera, so I offer evidence of the delights that took place — and will continue this coming September.

Here are Tim Laughlin, Ray Heitger, Steve Pistorius, and Jeff Hamilton from 2013.

and a delicious performance by Banu Gibson from 2013.

Steve Pistorius, Tom Fischer, and Ben Polcer swinging out in 2015,

the Yerba Buena Stompers that same year,

and Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers from 2013.

Enough to convince you?  If not, please look again at those names on the flyer, and know that the flyer can’t list all the luminaries (Hal Smith is going to be there, for one — as part of Kris Tokarski’s HOT CLASSICISM, a trio including Andy Schumm) — so hot music will surely be happening.  The way the Natchez is set up allows for simultaneous sets: sometimes three at once, so the only problem I foresee is deciding WHICH?  We should all have such dilemmas.

But enough of that.  See you on the boat, I hope.

May your happiness increase!

TOKARSKI’S NIGHTINGALE (AND OTHER RARE SPECIES)

Although I’ve only met the young pianist / composer Kris Tokarski a few brief times in person, I admire him as a remarkable musician with great wit, warmth, flexibility, and swing.

Kris Tokarski. Photograph by Scott Myers.

Kris Tokarski. Photograph by Scott Myers.

About sixteen months ago, Kris made his first CD as a leader, DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM — a delightful musical collation with Kris among his friends and peers James Evans, Evan Christopher, and Benji Bohannon.  Here’s what I wrote about Kris (with music samples) in April 2014.

Although Kris’ musical and emotional range is substantial, he is a great subtle player of older music with the right feeling — without being hemmed in by written manuscript, older recordings, or restrictive stylistic conventions.  Here is a recent video-recording Kris did especially for JAZZ LIVES — at home and informally — of Joseph Lamb’s RAGTIME NIGHTINGALE:

Notice his lovely touch, his gentle approach.  Would you like to hear more? That is easily accomplished.

Kris, photographed by Don Keller, in front of Jelly's house, Frenchmen and Robertson Streets, New Orleans

Kris, photographed by Don Keller, in front of Jelly’s house, Frenchmen and Robertson Streets, New Orleans

In March of this year, Kris, Hal Smith, drums, and Cassidy Holden, string bass, went into the GHB Studios in New Orleans to create a CD that would consider classic rags from a Mortonian perspective, with performances modeled on Jelly’s own evocations as well as songs known to be familiar during his career but not recorded.  The compositions are Pastime Rag #3 / Heliotrope Bouquet / Kinklets / Peacherine Rag / Elite Syncopations / Ragtime Nightingale / Grace And Beauty / Please Say You Will / Sunflower Slow Drag / Swipesy / Magnetic Rag / The Easy Winners / Cataract Rag / St. Louis Rag.  If you understand the concept, the CD is a magnificent invention; if you’ve never heard the Morton Library of Congress recordings, the CD will please just as deeply.

I was delighted to be asked to write the liner notes.  Here’s what I said:

SOFT, SWEET, PLENTY RHYTHM

In 1972, I had several opportunities to marvel at Eubie Blake, then nearing ninety.  He would play MEMORIES OF YOU, TROUBLESOME IVORIES, STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER, or CHARLESTON RAG, but he always concluded with a virtuosic display and a triumphant shout, “That’s RAGTIME!” It certainly was, but the music was more than notes on the page; it was shaped by the personality and experiences of its creator. Jazz improvisation is never pure (thank goodness): it’s all subliminal osmosis and hybridization.  Eubie’s ragtime was broad-minded: it cuddled up with stride, eight-to-the-bar, orchestral flourishes owing as much to Rachmaninoff as Joplin. 

I’ve heard many musicians approach the ragtime repertoire according to their spirit animal.  Some storm through a rag as if preparing for a martial arts tournament.  Others play it with reverent rigidity, the way a child in an antique shop sits tensely on the chair to which he’s been affixed.  This CD presents one, two, and three musicians embodying a radical idea: “Let’s play the music with joy and attention to detail, and whatever happens, it will be good.”     

On this CD, Jelly Roll Morton’s proud, playful New Orleans spirit is strong, although Kris Tokarski wisely avoids the Morton caricature: lesser pianists turn Morton into a large papier-mache figure at the keyboard. 

Kris’s playing is, as always, warm and delicate but you know there is stomping power beneath the surface. I admire his beautiful touch, the logic of his phrases, but he’s never so precise as to be chilly.  Kris animates the rags, reminding us that ragtime is swinging syncopated dance music: pastoral but not effete.

Masterful playing by Cassidy Holden and Hal Smith makes this a genuine trio, democratic and empathic.  Hear the low woody propulsive sound Cassidy gets (the right notes, the right changes, a wonderful pulse) as well as his cellolike clarity.  Hal’s playing appears uncomplicated, but it takes decades of devoted playing to know what to leave out, what sounds to make, how and when to make them.  I thought occasionally of Minor Hall and Tommy Benford, but most often of Hal.

These performances aren’t “recreations” of some imagined past, but neither are they free-form improvisations on the harmonies.  I hear echoes of the jungle (ANIMULE BALL) in CATARACT RAG, the Spanish tinge in MAGNETIC RAG.  But each song sounds like a movement in a dance suite – with echoes of marches, quadrilles, and street parades. PLEASE SAY YOU WILL moves so deliciously from waltz to a gently swinging rhythm ballad with a few closing moments of stomp (as Morton did on MY GAL SAL).  ST. LOUIS RAG – in the words of Jake Hanna – starts swinging from the beginning.  GRACE AND BEAUTY shows off this trio’s many virtues: they don’t get louder or faster, but you know the train is moving on the right track and it will arrive on time. 

SUNFLOWER SLOW DRAG is a history of the first decades of jazz, as it progresses from a tender, almost shy start to a romp.

We owe this session to Hal Smith, not only a master percussionist but a jazz scholar and detective.  He had long been fascinated by Morton’s transformations of famous ragtime pieces, and wondered how other rags would sound if played in Jelly’s style.  He knew that Kris would be perfect for the project, making the performances vibrant, not dusty.  Hal put together a list of rags that might have been played in New Orleans between 1900 and 1917 – and after swapping music and recordings, this wonderful group was ready – not for the river, but for the studio.  Thank you, Kris, Hal, Cassidy, for opening the magic toybox and offering us so much joy.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Or perhaps I have.

To purchase the CD, visit here. Or if you encounter Kris at a gig, I am sure he will be happy to arrange a mutually satisfying transaction.

And I am looking for several chances to enjoy Kris and friends in the coming months.  His trio — with Hal Smith and Tim Laughlin (yes, you did read that correctly!) — is a highlight of the Evergreen Jazz Festival in Colorado at the end of July; the “Hot Classicism” trio of Kris, Hal, and Andy Schumm will also appear at the 2016 Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans.

May your happiness increase!