Tag Archives: Jamaica Knauer

BIXFEST 2012 IS ON THE WAY! (March 8-11, 2012)

I’ve never met Phil Pospychala.  But his reverence for Bix Beiderbecke, his music, and his world goes far beyond the sweet passivity of someone listening to his beloved records at home.  No, Phil has been creating and hosting his Tributes to Bix for more than two decades: this one is subtitled THE DREAM CONTINUES: PART XXIII.

That’s a serious thing.

You can find out more immediately by visiting here.   But permit me to share a few bits of information.

This year’s TRIBUTE is held in Racine, Wisconsin — and it will feature Andy Schumm, the heroic young man of jazz, with two “new” bands: his Monkey Chasers and the Scrap-Iron Jazzerinos.  The lissome and swinging singer Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke will be coming back to these shores.  Rare films, rare records to hear and to buy, a lecture by Hans Eekhoff on sound restoration and other pertinent matters; a film-demonstration of Twenties dance styles by the Queen of the Dicty Glide, Bridget Calzaretta . . . cakes in the shape of famous Bix records, contests, a magic show . . . a bus tour of sites related to Bee Palmer, Don Murray, and much more.  Josh Duffee, John Otto, Dave Bock, and Jamaica Knauer will be there.

The highest priced admission (Patron with the bus tour included) is $100.  The site will answer every question you might have — and raise some you never thought of — but you can also email Phil at bixguy@hotmail.com.  It’s advised that you register at the Marriott by February 14 (If music be the food of love, play on!) to ensure that you’ll get a room.

And here’s even more contact information:  the BIX phone hotline is (847) 996-0246.  There’s a reservation form and price schedule on the website, and checks should be mailed to Phil Pospychala at 15745 W. Birchwood Lane, Libertyville, Illinois 60048-5101.  You can also pay by Paypal.

The hotel details are as follows:  Marriott – Racine, WI (Hwy.20) 7111 Washington Ave.  Room Reservations – (262) 886-6100.  Toll Free – (800) 228-9290.  Tell the pleasant young person who takes your call that you are with the  “Bix Fest” to guarantee the special rate of $89, and be eligible for prize drawing of free room.

Register on line – www.marriott.com — type in Group Code – “bixbixa”; the group code field is on the Racine-Marriott homepage on the lower left side.  The $89 rate and room information will then pop up.  The closest airport is   Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.  More details about bus, shuttle . . . are available on the website.

These festive events don’t go on eternally, so don’t wait.  Be a friend.  “With pleasure” will be all yours.

TRIBUTE TO BIX FEST 2011 (March 10-13)

Phil Pospychala has remarkable stamina! 

His twenty-second annual musical / cultural tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, his friends, and environment, is scheduled for March 10-13, 2011.  It will be held at the Marriott in Racine, Wisconsin. 

Appearing this year will be regulars Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, Josh Duffee, and John Otto — in an ensemble Andy promises will feature songs no one’s ever heard before (and he keeps his promises), and the wonderful singer Barbara Rosene (making her first appearance at this gala), as well as singer Jamaica Knauer, pianist Dave Drazin, and Dave Greer’s Classic Jazz Stompers. 

There’s a famous (or infamous?) bus tour, record sales, rare films, musical quizzes, a lecture by Bix scholar / trumpeter Hans Eekhoff on “Restoring the Bix Gennetts, Part Two,” and more. 

For the schedule of events, hotel information, prices, visit www.bixfest.com, email Phil directly at bixguy@hotmail.com.  There’s even a Bixfest hotline: (847) 996-0246.  And if you’re puzzled by the baked goods on display at the top of this posting, why, they’re birthday cakes for the ever-young man from Davenport, sweet edible replicas of his recordings. 


BIX FEST 2010: GALS and RIVERS and MONDAY

These videos were taken by the multi-talented Jamaica Knauer at Phil Pospychala’s “Tribute to Bix,” the most recent celebration of Bix Beiderbecke’s life and art.  Cornetist Andy Schumm and his Gang — that’s Dave Bock (trombone), John Otto (reeds), Leah Bezin (banjo / guitar), David Boeddinghaus (piano), Vince Giordano (bass sax, string bass, tuba, vocals), and Josh Duffee (drums) performed a number of selections either recorded by Bix or evoking him.  Appropriately, the music was played on Bix’s birthday — at the Bavarian Inn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

There are perhaps unintentional thematic connections here, easy to find.

MY GAL SAL (written by Paul Dresser, brother of novelist Theodore Dreiser):

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL (was it a pal of Sal or another gal?):

SLOW RIVER (harking back to the Goldkette band):

RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (for the Wolverines and the 1927 recording with Frank Trumbauer):

Finally, because it’s Thursday, here’s the very antidote to Blue Monday, a cheerful FROM MONDAY ON:

Anyone who’s paying attention won’t need me to point to the special pleasures — the ringing playing of the front line, relaxed and hot; the rocking rhythm section, and the wonderfully steady tempos — but these performances will please over and over.  This band knows the records and the idiom inside-out but no one feels compelled to copy the famous solos.  And the smile on Josh Duffee’s face sums it all up for me.

“THE DEAR BOY”: BIXFEST 2010 (March 11-14)

First, “the dear boy” is what Louis Armstrong called Bix, writing about him in 1954.  And Bix Beiderbecke remains dear to many, as man and musician.   

Phil Pospychala is once again arranging his Tribute to Bix, to be held in the Marriott in Racine, Wisconsin.  Details can be found — along with photographs, cartoons, comedy, and information — at http://www.bixfest.com/

The music promises to be typically rewarding, with Vince Giordano leading his Midwest Nighthawks and as a member of the “Bix and his Gang” band — which features Andy Schumm on cornet, Dave Bock on trombone, John Otto on reeds, and Josh Duffee on drums.  Jamaica Knauer, videographer and singer, will be making her debut with cornetist Scott Black, Bock, Andy Schumm on piano, John Otto, and Sue Fischer on drums.  The New Century Jazz Orchestra from the UK will be playing as well. 

Jamaica says, “It’s a really nice, intimate kind of festival, with a bus trip to jazz sites, lectures, record
contests, record sales, jazz films, late night record spinning, birthday cakes in Bix’s honor….a great time to hear some fantastic music, mingle with the musicians, make friends, and visit with old ones.”

For details (prices, reservations, scheduling) visit the BixFest site above.  The video clips I have seen and posted from this festival are evidence enough that a good time was and will be had by all.  Or ask your local Bixian!

ANDY SCHUMM and FRIENDS! (Sept. 2009)

I don’t think I have to praise young Mr. Schumm in this post — the video clips I’ve been posting (my own, from Jamaica Knauer and others) are eloquent testimony.  But here he is, surrounded by his musical elders, entirely comfortable, playing the music of Bix Beiderbecke that he loves, as well as a few rarities from the period.  Those well-known elders are Bob Havens on trombone; Scott Robinson on reeds; Andy Stein on violin and baritone sax; James Dapogny on piano; Marty Grosz, who needs no introduction here; Vince Giordano, ditto; Arnie Kinsella, drums. 

Andy opened his set with a slower-than-usual LOUISIANA, whose beginning I missed.  I especially admire Dapogny’s tremolos behind Scott Robinson’s Lesterish clarinet, and the way that Andy leaps in.  And Dapogny, playing the verse as an unaccompanied interlude, slyly reminds us that Mister Jelly was also in Chicago when Bix and the boys were visiting.  I apologize deeply for the lurching of the camera near the end.  Was I carried away with emotion or was it something more mundane?  Either way, the jazz ship was in no danger of going down: 

The second tune was ANGRY (it wasn’t really), which I associate with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings ans George Brunis, from the start of career to the end.  That’s some rhythm section!  Note the enthusiastic backing Arnie Kinsella gives Bob Havens, and the ferocious way Dapogny lets everyone know that he’s here at the start of his solo, emphasizing that three-note ascending phrase.  The tuba isn’t always a melodic instrument, but Vince just forges ahead, creating long-lined inventions that stick in the mind.  And I especially love it that Andy Stein said to himself, “This piece needs a baritone saxophone more than a violin,” picks his up, and boots the final chorus along energetically:

Next, from the Bix and Tram book (recording as “The Chicago Loopers”), the Fats Waller tune, I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED.  Perfectionists will note that there is a moment, coming out of the ensemble, where the team seems to have forgotten the signals (and what was the esoteric meaning of Dapogny’s right-hand gesture to the band — was it “My hand hurts,” or perhaps, “Could we start this thing, for the love of Jo Trent”?) but the performance recovers nicely.  Dapogny’s solo is a model of hot construction, and the rhythm section passage, with Vince finding his low notes and Arnie rocking the temple blocks, couldn’t be better:

And two rarities: ROSY CHEEKS (you can almost invent the bouncy lyrics without ever having heard it sung — it seems an illegitimate relative of BABY FACE, which makes sense in a plagiaristic way).  Although few members of this group could have been intimate with the song, it seems to have simple, if not simplistic chord changes, and they leap right in.  That no one in the house cheered when Scott Robinson concluded his energetically labyrinthine solo is a mystery indeed.  Perhaps they were busily concentrating on their heaped-high plates of food?  Notice how Arnie Kinsella drives the band along in the last chorus — his beat more nourishing than what was on those plates:

Then, a song recorded by Harold Austin’s Ambassadors for Gennett in 1930 (what resonance those words have) — an unusual pop tune called MONA*.  Andy’s lead is, like Bix’s late work, a both poignant and urgent.  The chorus split by and shared by Andy Stein (on baritone) and Scott (on metal clarinet) is a wonderful impromptu creation, again under-appreciated.  And the band energetically takes it out, with Andy Schumm showing the way:

To conclude the set (perhaps to everyone’s relief), Andy called NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW, much more familiar material.  Two endearing things happen at the end of the first ensemble chorus: Marty reaches forward and turns off the light on his music stand, because he doesn’t need it, and Arnie shifts into his own version of Jo-Jones-on-the-hi-hat, to encourage the congregation.  Am I the only one who finds such shifts, when done masterfully, absolutely levitating experiences?  And then, Scott whispers to Andy — certainly something about trading phrases.  What happens next reminds me a great deal of Bix and Tram on YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME, except we know it’s being created there in front of our eyes, gloriously.  More split choruses (Andy Stein and Marty, Vince and Arnie) lead into a final chorus that begins with some tentativeness and then gets heated in a nice “Chicagoan” way just in time for the last eight bars:

Yeah, man!  And more Andy Schumm footage to come – – –

*There’s also a fascinating YouTube clip of Austin’s recording — a good hot dance band of the period, with a debatable vocal — that uses period phonograph advertisements as illustrations — don’t miss the naughty postcard and the Hebrew family illustrations!  But you’ll have to search it out on your own.

OH, PLAY THAT THING!

Jamaica Knauer captured this inspiring performance of DIPPER MOUTH BLUES at the July 2007 Bix Fest in Davenport, Iowa — with a quintet of unusual suspects gathered together as the “Flatland Hot Five”: Sue Fischer (drums), Steve Pistorius (piano), Tom Fischer (clarinet), Dave Bock (trombone), and Andy Schumm (cornet).  It’s one of those performances that makes you rethink the emphasis on “originality” in jazz improvisation — for, although hardly a note in this cherished creation is new, the effect is still stirring, uplifting.  Everything old can be new again when approached as if old and new were lively, interchangeable . . .

Perhaps this is what it sounded like when Joe Oliver took the stage at the Lincoln Gardens?

SWEET MUSIC, WITH FEELING

Jamaica Knauer, who seems to bring her video camera along whenever there’s good music, captured this performance for us: the West End Jazz Band performing at the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks Fans’ Bash on May 16, 2009 in Huntington, West Virginia.  The WEJB features Leah Bezin, guitar and vocal; Mike Bezin, trumpet; John Otto, alto sax; Frank Gualtieri, trombone; Mike Walbridge, tuba; Andy Schumm, covering the drum chair rather than his usual cornet or piano. 

This song, OUT WHERE THE LITTLE MOONBEAMS ARE BORN, recorded by George Olsen and other bands in 1929, was new to me.  I couldn’t find its composer credits in the ASCAP database, so I would be interested in knowing who wrote it. 

Experienced listeners with good memories might find phrases in it reminiscent (forwards as well as backwards) of more famous songs, but all of that fades away in this sweetly earnest performance.  And it passed my tests: I found myself humming it and had to play the clip several times in a row before moving on.  Maybe it’s perfect music for all of our yearnings to get away to a magical place where no one can intrude on our romances.  See if it doesn’t become part of your mental musical library, too!  

Heartfelt thanks to the WEJB and to Jamaica for preserving this sweet moment.

OGDEN, UTAH / RED AND MIFF VISIT THE 21st CENTURY

Yesterday the Beloved and I drove through Ogden, Utah.  That town is quite removed from our usual route, but we are here so that she can teach three classes in pressure cooking at the amiable Love to Cook / Kitchen Kneads (!) store in Logan . . . and then we can drink in the natural beauty that so characterizes the state — snow-topped mountains so astonishing that on first glance they look unreal, and the wondrous birds who casually inhabit the Wild Bird Refuge at Bear River. 

All right, what has any of this to do with jazz?

A good deal, by luck and serendipity.  Ogden, as some of you might know, is the birthplace of Loring “Red” Nichols, the cornetist and bandleader whose name, nearly forty-five years after his death — still has the power to stir up ideological controversy among jazz fans.  Some of his best “Five Pennies” recordings feature the revolutionary-for-his-time trombonist Miff Mole, who was born in Freeport, Long Island, a community not far from the one where I spent my childhood.  Red and Miff favored a kind of jazz that was “modern,” harmonically sophisticated, and complex . . . but their performances have always been mildly condescended to by those who prefer their jazz scalding Hot — those who listened to the Five Pennies recordings for the solos of Teagarden, Goodman, Lang, or Teschmacher, the rhythmic support of Sullivan, Krupa, Vic Berton, or Tough.  Next to the hot players of his generation, Nichols can — on occasion — sound a bit mannered, and one might hear the echoes of “Carnival of Venice,” which he played as a boy, coming through.  But he was a better-than-average player, he employed the best players he could find, and he gave them solo space.  And, unlike Ted Lewis, he didn’t sing or talk over anyone else’s solos.  I think the bad things said about Nichols have to do with the unconscious or conscious Marxism that hovers over jazz.  Nichols had the bad taste to be Caucasian, middle-class, prosperous — someone who made a living from jazz and lived a long comfortable life.  Had Nichols died of tuberculosis, or had he frozen to death on a Harlem doorstep, would he be held in higher esteem among the jazz purists? 

Miff Mole is somewhat of a different story.  The trombone requires so much from the person behind the mouthpiece, that there are very few trombonists who keep their initial style intact (I think of Morton, Teagarden, and Vic Dickenson as a celestial trio) — but Mole’s early solos are acrobatic and graceful.  It’s impossible to imagine that Teagarden, Jimmy Harrison, and Charlie Green didn’t notice what Miff was doing, quietly, in the early Twenties.

One of the wonderful things about this music is that younger players can look back to the past, honor it, and then give their homage its own individuality. 

While we were driving through Ogden, Utah, Jamaica Knauer was posting one of her delightful videos from the 2009 Bix Fest — Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, Kim Cusack, Paul Asaro, Leah Bezin, John Otto, and Josh Duffee, “Bix and his Chicago Gang,” here payting tribute to Miff’s recording (from 1928, I think) of ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND.  Initially, it sounds ragtime-and-brass band flavored, but the boys (then and now) take themselves to the land of jazz, in a lovely manner.

“YEAH, MAN!” (BIX 2009)

Jamaica Knauer, the patron saint of Midwestern Hot Jazz on video (now there‘s a mouthful of Homeric epithet) very generously uploaded two more of her videos from the 2009 Bix Beiderbecke Festival on YouTube for our collective joy and enlightenment.  To quote Milt Hinton, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like broccoli!”*

Here are “Bix and His Chicago Gang,” fervent and expert, captured live at Fitzgerald’s — in tuxedos, no less.  They are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; John Otto, bass sax; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums.  First, one of the affectionate songs of the late Twenties, MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.  (Cutty Cutshall, that Condon stalwart, used to call it MAHONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.) 

There are too many delightful details to absorb in one viewing, but the band does the very pleasing thing of returning to the verse several times during this performance, making the most of the possibilities of changing from verse to chorus more than once.  It’s a lovely idea, now abandoned in favor of playing chorus after chorus on the theme, which can (I write this in a whisper) become monotonous.  Notice also how many times one of the musicians is grinning because of something another player has just created, and you know that those smiles aren’t “counterfeited glee” for the benefit of the audience.  This band rocks without raising its voice or accelerating its pace. 

The second performance has nothing to apologize for, even though the source material is the tune SORRY.  Jamaica had to switch from one memory card to another in mid-performance, cutting off a bit of Paul Asaro’s striding solo, but I’m so glad she caught what she did.  And the gap in the middle is in itself nostalgic, reminding all of us of those radio airshots captured on 10″ 78 rpm blanks that have a chorus or two we have to imagine — while the diligent recordist tried to turn the acetate over as quickly as possible or put another blank on the turntable.  Heroically done, Jamaica; romping hot jazz, O you Bixians! 

And my title is more than just a Twenties and Thirties exultation, although it would do just fine on that basis: in 1933, Bing Crosby was asked to fill out a questionnaire — favorite color, music, books, and the like.  When it got to “favorite expression,” that’s the one he thought of.  “Yeah, man!” indeed!

 *And if you don’t like broccoli, perhaps it’s because someone’s been overcooking it: try removing it from the heat when it’s still got some life in it.  Late-life culinary conversions are both possible and uplifting!

ONE HOT BABY!

More from the Bixians: Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, John Otto,Paul Asaro, Leah Bezin, Josh Duffee — plus homeboy Vince Giordano — swinging irresistibly through Bill Challis’ arrangement for the Jean Goldkette Orchestra of BABY FACE.  An exultant soundtrack!  Thanks again to Jamaica Knauer and her trusty “little camera,” which captured wondrous encounters. 

MORE FROM THE BIX FEST (RACINE, March 2009)!

These videos are here (and on YouTube) through the generosity of Jamaica Knauer and her “little camera,”  suitably attired, “running around in the gaudy 1920’s outfit, and Cleopatra headpiece.  Anywhere Andy Schumm and Dave Bock were playing, I was somewhere around, filming them. Ha! Ha!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and we owe Jamaica and the Bixians a great deal: they are, besides Andy and Dave, John Otto, Paul Asaro, Vince Giordano, Leah Bezin, and Josh Duffee.  Here they are at Fitzgerald’s, with a truly rocking NOBODY’S SWEETHEART:

A little calmer, but still enthusiastic, is THAT’S THE GOOD OLD SUNNY SOUTH:

And a steady BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? at one of the many “right” tempos, with a soulful vocal by Vince:

Walter Donaldson’s pretty AT SUNDOWN, again at a wonderful tempo, not too fast:

Finally, an exuberant FRESHMAN HOP (which I associate with Jack Pettis, Irving Mills, the Hotsy Totsy Gang, and Jack Teagarden), with Otto on bass sax and Kim Cusack on clarinet:

There are more delights on YouTube.  Everyone here is a wonderfully enthusiastic, gifted soloist, but one of the rare pleasures of these performances is the way the ensembles work together — Asaro’s striding piano behind a horn soloist, Vince, Leah, and Josh working together as a unit, the horn players trading phrases and humming behind one another.  Yes, “Bix lives!” but we shouldn’t forget just how alive and lively these players are — thanks to Jamaica!