Tag Archives: J. Fred Coots

ATLANTA 2012: ED POLCER, DUKE HEITGER, RUSS PHILLIPS, ALLAN VACHE, MATT MUNISTERI, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 21, 2012)

A set of hot music by Ed Polcer, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano, Frank Tate, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums. Recorded April 21, 2012 at the Atlanta Jazz Party.

Ageless music — even if the repertoire comes from 1917-1935, the energy, wit, and passion are unabated.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (for Louis and Papa Joe, Bix and his Gang, Condon and his boys, whether at the Park Lane, the Newport Jazz Festival, 47 West Third Street, or the New School):

LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE (in honor of Fats Waller, Danny Coots’ “Uncle Fred,” and the crew of THIS OLD HOUSE):

FIDGETY FEET (recalling the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the Big 72 and all the bands worldwide in between):

May your happiness increase.

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SWINGING FOR JOHN PENDLETON: HAL SMITH’S INTERNATIONAL SEXTET at SACRAMENTO (May 27, 2011)

What better way to honor a beloved jazz friend, now gone, than with the music he loved so much?  And played so eloquently by the people he admired so deeply. 

The man: John Pendleton, whom you’ll hear spoken of in the videos that follow.

The musicians: Hal Smith’s International Sextet, recorded on May 27 at the 2011 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.  That’s Hal (drums), Katie Cavera (guitar / vocals), Clint Baker (string bass / vocals), Anita Thomas (clarinet, alto, vocals), Kim Cusack (clarinet, tenor, vocals), Carl Sonny Leyland (piano, vocals).

“Music speaks louder than words,” Charlie Parker told condescending Earl Wilson in that famous film clip, and Bird was right, so I won’t elaborate the virtues of this rocking group at length: viewers can find their own pleasures for themselves. 

But I would point out that Hal, Katie, Sonny, and Clint make a peerless rhythm section, with their four sonorities weaving together, their pulses aligned without their individualities being flattened for some specious idea of the common good.  Hear the ripe-fruit sound of Katie’s guitar; the swish and flow of Hal’s cymbals, the deep commentaries of Clint’s bass, the down-home rock of Carl’s piano.  And the horns intertwine with each other and float over this sweet propulsion: Kim, bringing his own perspective to Bud Freeman, Eddie Miller, Joe Marsala, Pee Wee Russell, and Frank Chace; Anita, completely in control but entirely fearless, following her impulses in the best self-reliant way.  And the vocalizing is wonderful (jazz instrumentalists make the best singers!) neither slick nor amateurish.

Watch everyone on the stand smiling — always a guarantee of heartfelt music and deep gratifications being spread all around. 

Katie and Anita tell us all about the new dance craze that everyone’s doing — or should be doing — that’s TRUCKIN’:

RIDIN’ ON THE L&N celebrates a train that ran between Louisville and Nashville, according to Brother Hal, who knows these things:

John loved baseball and swing.  Hence this funny, surprising TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME:

A hot one!  RUNNIN’ WILD (hear Clint’s bass behind Kim):

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY is such a simple song, but it works so well on our deepest impulses to go home, or some imagined version of it.  Katie and Anita remind us that Doris Day had a great hit with this song; the rest of the band says (implicitly), “Hey, remember the great Buck Clayton Jam Session?”  Works perfectly:

Here’s Carl’s version of the 1949 hit by Sticks McGhee (younger brother of Brownie), DRINKIN’ WINE (SPO-DEE-O-DEE).  Original lyrics — according to Nick Tosches and Wikipedia — reprinted below, definitely unvarnished and unsanitized.*

Katie is not salacious in person, but she loves songs about Twenties flirtation — perhaps she was a naughty flapper in a past life?  Here’s MA! (HE’S MAKING EYES AT ME):

I couldn’t abide THIS OLD HOUSE even when I owned one (no real-life workmen were ever such models of decorum and skill) but I love LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE, and it’s clear that Anita does too.  Music by J. Fred Coots, Danny’s uncle:

And a little Basie is always good for the soul, as Hal reminds us with JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE:

I never met John Pendleton, but he must have been what the Irish call a grand fellow to have these candid people so deeply devoted to him.  And to have such wonderful music played in his memory!

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*”Drinkin’ that mess is our delight, And when we get drunk, start fightin’ all night. Knockin’ out windows and learnin’ down doors, Drinkin’ half-gallons and callin’ for more. Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Pass that bottle to me!”

THIS FATS IS GOOD FOR YOU: JEFF BARNHART’S “WALLER’ING AROUND”

Everybody knows about fats:  margarine (toxic), avocado (much better), Thomas Waller (salvation on the darkest days).

But since Fats Waller has been gone since December 1943, and all his recordings have been collected and issued on some six CD boxes (JSP Records), it falls to living pianists and singers to carry on and extend his joyous tradition.

One of the finest examples is a WALLER’ING AROUND, new compact disc by the hilariously gifted stride master / singer / entertainer Jeff Barnhart, recorded in February 2010.

The cover picture should give you an inkling that the mood of the CD is not somber, apropos for Fats and his world.

Jeff would have been a wonderfully funny entertainer even if Fats have never existed — any man who can write and sing a new couplet (approximately), “I want you to put your feets between my satin sheets,” is my hero.

These days, much of what is passed off as “stride piano” these days is either crisp but formal transcriptions of the records (you know who you are!) or uneven and bumpy, loud and fast — not the way the masters did it.

Jeff’s time is steady, his touch and dynamics are splendid, and he can improvise with great ingenuity and delicacy at top speed.  And he improvises throughout.  This isn’t a devoutly repressed repertory project, FATS IN HI-FI.

There’s a good deal of sly humor and rent party fun on this disc, but Jeff also recognizes Fats as another romantic, so the disc is full of tenderness.  And Jeff understands Fats’ serious side as well.  One of the high points of the delightfully varied disc is a seven-minute instrumental rendition of BLACK AND BLUE that begins with Jeff explaining this lovely mournful protest song.

Jeff is also a truly agile singer — his tenor captures much of Fats’ voice — not the shouting of asides over the band, but the yearning romanticism mixed with satire.  It’s a particularly insinuating sound, and it never feels forced or mannered — perhaps because it is so close to Jeff’s speaking voice: expressive, amused.

All the Waller favorites are here — sometimes with the surprise of a verse I’d never heard (as in BLUE TURNING GRAY OVER YOU) — but the less-played numbers lift this disc up to the first rank.

There’s VALENTINE STOMP, dedicated to a Harlem house of pleasure, which Jeff both plays respectfully and improvises on; there’s the early composition (recorded by another newcomer named Bechet), WILD CAT BLUES, Jeff’s orchestral version of the 1927 ST. LOUIS SHUFFLE (first recorded by the Fletcher Henderson band), the joyous MIDNIGHT STOMP (with the lyrics!) and HOLD MY HAND (which Fats performed on the radio as a duet with his teacher James P. Johnson).

But best of all — a striding bit of wondrous Hot archaeology — is the premiere performance of a swinging Waller tune (again with hilarious lyrics) whose premise is that every time I get a new girlfriend, someone steals her away: EV’RY SWEETIE THAT I GET.  I had to play it over several times before allowing myself to proceed to the next track.

Here are the songs:  THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’ / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE / BLUE TURNING GRAY OVER YOU / VALENTINE STOMP / KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW / WILD CAT BLUES / EV’RY SWEETIE THAT I GET / SQUEEZE ME / ST. LOUIS SHUFFLE / LONESOME ME / CLOTHESLINE BALLET / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / BLACK AND BLUE / MIDNIGHT STOMP / HOLD MY HAND. 

This one’s a keeper.  Lovely sound; you won’t miss horns or a rhythm section; there are articulate, funny notes by Jeff, and it will make you laugh and feel even better than usual.  It’s that fine Arabian stuff that your dreams are made of!

You can order this CD (it’s $20) directly from Jeff at his website: http://www.jeffbarnhart.com/cdsandorderform.html.

Pretend it’s your birthday.

AND, WHILE YOU’RE UP, GIVE A THOUGHT TO THE MUSICIANS WHO BRING US SO MUCH PLEASURE.  CLICK HERE: ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

P.S.  Let’s assume you’re out there saying, “Well, Michael, usually I trust your opinion, but I have never heard this Barnhart fellow.  Why should I spring for yet another compact disc?”  It’s a valid question — here’s Jeff playing VALENTINE STOMP in 2009, captured for us by the tireless Tom Warner:

Proof positive.  And (slightly afield) search out “A BEAUTIFUL LADY IN BLUE” with drummer Danny Coots — nephew of J. Fred, who wrote the song, where Jeff swings out like nobody’s business.  You’ll be hooked.  I am.

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND (Dec. 19, 2010)

This isn’t about Dostoevsky or his grim-pre-existential narrator.

No, the subject is much happier and equally profound. 

I had learned from trumpeter Gordon Au that there would be a below-ground wingding on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010: he and the Grand Street Stompers would play an hour’s gig down on the subway platform, the F train at Second Avenue for those taking notes.  Even better, they would be joined by New York City swing dancers in vintage attire.  Then, everyone would board an antique subway train (circa 1960 with yellow / blue rattan seats), do a round-trip out to Queens and make way for a second train trip. 

I could only take the vintage subway a few stops uptown, but I did capture the vivid action on the platform.  The Grand Street Stompers began as a trio — Gordon, Pete Anderson on clarinet, Rob Adkins on bass — but soon became a quartet when guitarist Mikey Freedom Hart arrived.

Their first number was a nicely rocking / sentimental BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, perhaps a homage to Louis, who began his concerts with this sweet old song for nearly twenty-five years:

Then, in the first acknowledgment of the season, IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS in two tempos, the dancers dipping and whirling even in the confined space (everyone was fully aware that overdramatic dancing would take them and us too close to the edges of the platform):

An unusual (and brave) choice for the context, Hoagy Carmichael’s NEW ORLEANS, with Gordon growling passionately, Rob bowing in the best old-New-Orleans manner:

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN (the song that made J. Fred Coots financially secure forever) here sounds as if BLUE MONK was not far in the background — it’s really a good, simplistic Thirties song:

I don’t know if Fats Waller ever took the subway, but he would have been pleased by this pretty — although brief — version of his 1929 hit AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’:

Finally, the pop lexicon’s version of the primal scene — Freudian or out of PEYTON PLACE? — I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS.  Let’s hope it was Daddy in the red suit, shall we?

I delighted in the lovely playing of the quartet, the delicious incongruity of the music and the setting — but the real pleasure was in watching the dancers reflect the music in their bodies, singly and in pairs, switching off, having a fine time.  Lynn Redmile, who appears in the beginning of the last video (to the right), promised she would tell me the names of the spirited and agile dancers we so admire here.  

The Home of Happy Feet for the price of a Metrocard swipe — !