Both Ray Skjelbred and Carl Sonny Leyland are bright skies in my night sky, deep quirky soulful individualists. Each is a strong-willed person and player. Although they have some of the same ends in mind — swing, lyricism, and a deep immersion in the blues — they always take different routes to get to those ends. Having them sit down at two pianos in a room is a great dream of mine; having them do so in front of a quiet audience with an expert videographer is almost more than I could hope for. But it happened, as you will see.
I was at perhaps their first public conversation — at the Jazz Bash by the Bay, March 9, 2014 — which rings in my ears and heart, although the pianos were widely spaced making them hard to video simultaneously. However, the blessed jubilant evidence remains! — this and this and this, too. (It makes me nostalgic for Monterey, but we’ll be there in March 2020 if the creeks don’t rise.)
But here, thanks to Rae Ann Berry, is a selection from their most recent collaboration. I haven’t posted all of what happened at the Jennings’ house party — there are more than two dozen songs and one prose poem — but you can chase down the delights on your own. Here are treasures.
SONG OF THE WANDERER:
Ray, musing his way through Fats Waller’s CHELSEA:
The Rhythmakers’ YES, SIR!:
KMH DRAG (for Max Kaminsky, Freddie Moore, Art Hodes):
Sonny’s RAT CATCHER’S BLUES:
Sonny’s delicate boogie version of TOGETHER, which I would guess is in honor of Denis Gilmore:
an indigo reading of HOW LONG BLUES:
and a frolicsome SWIPSEY CAKEWALK, so wonderfully orchestral:
Living at a cosmic intersection where Sonny and Ray can create together is a great uplifting boon. Bless them, Rae Ann, and Warren Jennings too.
May your happiness increase!