Tag Archives: Jacob Rex Zimmerman

IT HAPPENS IN MONTEREY (March 1-2-3, 2019): The JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY

For those who love the music, this reminder may be superfluous.  But there are always new people whom we hope to attract into the world of jazz and dance for great fun.  So, first, here is the Bash’s Facebook page, and here is their website.  Several truly pertinent facts — from personal experience.  March in Monterey is balmy, and I recall it as shirt-sleeve / eat gelato with Italians weather.  All of the music at the Bash happens under one roof, on several floors of the same building, and there is (as I recall) an elevator.  There are eight venues — which, loosely translated, means an immense number of choices, enough to produce vertigo.  Approximately 154 sets of music from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon.  Seven dance floors.  All under one roof, a fact worth repeating.

There are also a few names that didn’t fit on the poster, people you’d know and applaud.  Jacob Rex Zimmerman, Steve Pikal, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Hagglund, Sam Rocha, Chris Calabrese, Sue Kroninger, Ed Metz, Jerry Krahn, Howard Miyata, GROOVUS, Don Neely, and more.  I expect that the final schedule will be posted soon on the website so that people like me can start planning strategy with brightly colored highlighters.

A little personal history: I encountered the Jazz Bash by the Bay in 2011, on my first visit to California — out of the womb, that is — and this is what I encountered.  Dawn Lambeth had a bad cold, but even congested, she sounds thoroughly endearing: with her, are Clint Baker (drums); Marc Caparone (cornet); Howard Miyata (trombone); Mike Baird (clarinet); Katie Cavera (guitar, banjo); Paul Mehling (bass):

And another piece of vintage joy from 2011, featuring Katie Cavera, the 2019 Musician of the Year, in the center, with Clint Baker, Paul Mehling, and John Reynolds on various banjos — with Marc Caparone on bass and surprises (Clint has a surprise for us, too), and Ralf Reynolds on washboard:

Now, this blogpost isn’t a Trip Down Memory Lane, although I must say I nearly went down the largest rabbit-hole I can imagine when I started searching my own videos to see when I’d first visited Monterey.  I couldn’t believe: “Wow, you recorded that?  And THAT?”  The air was thick with immodesty and gratitude.

No, this is to remind people what glories happen at Monterey, and will happen in less than two months: March 1, 2, 3 of this year.  And — let us leave subtlety aside for those who need it — to encourage people to get out of their chairs and be at the Bash.  See you there — maybe in the elevator or rapt in the first row.

May your happiness increase!

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SPLENDIDLY GENUINE: “MORE OF THAT,” JACOB ZIMMERMAN and his PALS

This is not really a post about shopping, but since shopping is one of the experiences held in common by so many of us, it works as metaphor.  A dozen years ago, if I thought I needed a new shirt, I would have headed to The Mall, where I could gaze at two dozen machine-made shirts, identical except for size and perhaps color.  The plenitude was a reassuring reminder that we live in the Land of Too Much, and often I bought more than I needed.

As my clothing style became more personal, the racks of identical product no longer charmed.  I began to go thrift-shopping for the quest for unique pleasures.  Surprise was the rule, even among the inexplicable proliferation of plaid shirts (why?). I would spot something thirty shirts away, move towards it as if magnetized, and might have a small breath-taking experience.  “That’s for me!  I could wear that!  That looks like it belongs to me!”

Illustration by Jesse Rimler

Such impassioned bonding happens with music also: I was two minutes into the first track of a new CD — its cover above — and my mental soundtrack alternated between, “Oh, my goodness, this is wonderful!” and the more defensive, “You’re not getting this CD away from me.”  And then,addressing the invisible JAZZ LIVES audience, “You need to hear this,” I thought.

“This” is the debut CD of Jacob Zimmerman and his Pals called MORE OF  THAT, and to use my own catchphrase, it has increased my happiness tremendously.

The cover drawing, which I love, by Jesse Rimler, says much about the cheerful light-heartedness of the enterprise.  Why has this twenty-first century Nipper got his head in a protective cone?  Has he been biting himself?  Is the cone a visual joke about the morning-glory horn?  Is this the canine version of cupping a hand behind your ear to hear your singing better?  All I know is that this dog is reverently attentive.  You’ll understand why.

Here is Jacob’s website, and you can read about his musical associations here.

I had heard Jacob’s name bandied about most admiringly a few years ago; he appeared in front of me in the Soho murk of The Ear Inn and was splendidly gracious.  He’d also received the equivalent of the Legion of Honor: he was gigging with Ray Skjelbred.  But even these brightly-colored bits of praise did not prepare me for how good this CD is.

The overall ambiance is deep Minton’s 1941, Keynote, and Savoy Records sessions, that wonderful period of music where “swing” and “bop” cuddled together, swinging but not harmonically or rhythmically constrained.  And although Jacob and Pals have the recorded evidence firmly in their ears and hearts, and under their fingers as well, this is not Cryogenic Jazz or Swing Taxidermy (with apologies to Nipper’s grandchild on the cover).

As a leader, Jacob is wonderfully imaginative without being self-consciously clever (“Didja hear what the band did there?  Didja?”)  Each performance has a nifty arrangement that enhances the song rather than drawing attention from it — you could start with the title tune, MORE OF THAT, which Jacob told me is based on MACK THE KNIFE, “MORITAT,” so you’ll get the joke — which begins from elements so simple, almost monochromatic, and then builds.  Each arrangement makes full use of dynamics (many passages on this CD are soft — what a thing!), there’s some dark Ellingtonia and some rocking neo-Basie.  And each song is full of delightful sensations: when I get through listening to BALLIN’ THE JACK (a song often unintentionally brutalized) I think, “That’s under three minutes? How fulfilling.”  So the Pals are a friendly egalitarian organization with everyone getting chances to shine.

A few words about the compositions.  SIR CHARLES is Ray’s homage to our hero Sir Charles Thompson; Jacob says RADIATOR “was composed as a feature for Ray and was inspired by the Earl Hines record “Piano Man.” It’s based on “Shine.”  SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY “is a feature for bassist Matt Weiner and pays homage to the record of that tune by Lester Young and Slam Stewart.”  “FIRST THURSDAY is based on”Sunday.” My monthly gig at the jazz club “Egan’s Ballard Jam House” has happened every first Thursday for over 5 years.” And SCULPT-A-SPHERE “is based on “Nice Work If You Can Get It”…I tried to imagine what it would be like if Thelonious Monk and Lester Young wrote a tune together.”

Before I get deeper into the whirlpool of praise, some data.  Jacob plays alto and clarinet (more about that in a minute), aided immeasurably by: Matt Weiner, string bass; Josh Roberts, guitar; Ray Skjelbred, piano; D’Vonne Lewis, drums; Cole Schuster, guitar; Christian Pincock, trombone; Meredith Axelrod brings voice and guitar to the final track.  And the compositions: RADIATOR / SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY / FIRST THURSDAY / SONG OF THE ISLANDS / BLUE GUAIAC BLUES / BLUES FOR SIR CHARLES / IN A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN / MORE OF THAT / BALLIN’ THE JACK / BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? / SCULPT-A-SPHERE / I AIN’T GOT NOBODY.  All immensely tasty, none crowding its neighbor.

This being the twenty-first century, many saxophonists live in a post-Parker era, which works for some. But Jacob has deeply understood that there are other sounds one can draw upon while playing that bent metal tube: a mix of Pete Brown (without the over-emphatic pulse), Hilton Jefferson (rhapsodic but tempered), and Lee Konitz (dry but not puckering the palate).  On clarinet, he suggests Barney Bigard but with none of the Master’s reproducible swoops and dives: all pleasing to the ear.

Because I have strongly defined tastes, I often listen to music with an editor’s ear, “Well, they’re dragging a little there.”  “I would have picked a brighter tempo.”  “Why only one chorus?” and other mind-debris that may be a waste of energy.  I don’t do that with MORE OF THAT, and (imagine a drumroll and cymbal crash) I love this CD so fervently that I will launch the JAZZ LIVES GUARANTEE.  Buy the disc.  Keep the jiffybag it came in.  Play it twice.  If you’re not swept away, write to me at swingyoucats@gmail.com, send me the CD and I’ll refund your money and postage.  I don’t think I will be reeling from a tsunami of mail, and should some people (inexplicably) not warm to this disc, I’ll have extra copies to give away.

You heard it here first.

May your happiness increase!