Tag Archives: J.S. Bach

GET BACH!

Last night, my wife and I celebrated New Year’s Eve by attending a joyous concert of Baroque music — Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Rameau — given by the BERKSHIRE BACH SOCIETY at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It was glorious: the soloists were enthusiastic and warm, the music danced through the very lovely hall. (And, as an aside, no one’s cellphone went off in 150 minutes of music.)

On the program was BWV 1043, Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, by our Johann. When it began, I leaned forward happily and thought “I know this!” And this morning, I can offer the evidence: two recordings for the Swing label by Eddie South and Stephane Grappelli, violins; Django Reinhardt, guitar.

(November 23, 1937) Interpretation swing sur le premier movement du concerto en re mineur du J.S. Bach.

(November 25, 1937) Improvisation swing du concert en re mineur du J. S. Bach.

And their delightful variations in swing.

Notice that this one begins with Eddie South quoting MAHOGANY HALL STOMP:

and the second side gives the introduction to Django:

Those recordings aren’t blasphemies: they honor the spirit of Bach — melodic invention, rhythmic energy, and good-humored swing.

Thanks to the unparalleled violin scholar Anthony Barnett for his wise assistance. See his astonishing work (books, CDs, archives) here. He has created imperishable scholarship on Stuff Smith, Eddie South, Henry Crowder, and Juice Wilson among others; his “ABFable” CDs offer music by a young Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Nance, Jimmie Blanton, Ben Webster, Al Casey, Ray Perry, Ginger Smock, Helen Ward, Rex Stewart, Jonah Jones, Joe Bushkin, Jo Jones, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Clyde Hart, Al Tinney — treasures.

Here, just because it is accurate, endearing, and hilarious, is violinist Rob Flax “unboxing” the Stuff Smith materials issued by Anthony:

So much Stuff indeed!

Since this is the first post of a new year, let me amplify my usual closing. May 2023 by a wonderful year for all who read this blog and those who don’t, musicians profiled here, their partners, families, and pets. Writing this blog (fifteen year this February) brings me joy: I wish you all the same and more, in whatever flavors and colors you love most, your heart’s desire and the best surprises.

May your happiness increase!

“JOHN KIRBY PLAYS FATS WALLER” BY DAN BLOCK (JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA, Sept. 17. 2011)

Dan Block is full of refreshing, gratifying ideas.

His imagining Fats Waller’s compositions as played by the John Kirby Sextet in the twenty-first century makes its own appealing sense.  Kirby and Waller knew each other and even show up in the same place (as in Fats’ Carnegie Hall concert in 1942).  Their paths probably crossed in ways not documented in jazz histories or discographies.  One can, without much exertion, imagine them having a drink — or several — uptown, and we know they both had a Henderson connection and they both led very well-known and immediately identifiable small jazz groups.

I suspect also that Dan, a thinking person — engage him on a political question and you’ll see what I mean — enjoys puzzles that require imagination to solve or untangle.  So the idea of writing arrangements within (and without) a clearly defined style for songs that have powerful melodic lines would have intrigued him.  And the music intrigues me.

At Jazz at Chautauqua, the results of this industry were clear: visually, in the pages of music unfurled in front of expert sight-readers Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan and Scott Robinson, reeds; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums.  And what we heard was instantly entrancing: part of it was the pleasure of the band’s innate swing.  (Whisper this: they swung much more than the Kirby crew did . . . )  The other pleasure was in hearing something both old and new at once: beautiful skirling Waller melodies from new angles.  It was a remarkable occasion and a stirring set, as you will see.

Here’s a very pretty ballad, IF IT AIN’T LOVE (listeners with substantial record collections may want to revisit the Boswell Sisters version or the Bobby Hackett serenade done at a Condon Town Hall concert as well):

What started out as I WISH I WERE TWINS, when cross-bred with Bach’s A minor violin concerto, became in the fertile Block imagination I WISH BACH COULD SEE MY TWINS:

LONESOME ME, sweetly sorrowful:

I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, perennially swinging:

And HENDERSON STOMP, a “secret” Waller composition: did he sell it for alimony money or for other, more pleasant rewards?

In an ideal world, DAN BLOCK PLAYS JOHN KIRBY PLAYS FATS WALLER would be a hit at jazz festivals, and there would be several CD sets, for Dan’s imagination is just that splendidly sprawling.  I can dream, can’t I?