What happened in Mountain View, California, on Wednesday, August 1, 2012, might have been noted by global weather scientists as the best kind of seismic alteration. Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band played two sets for dancers at the “Wednesday Night Hop” held at the Cheryl Burke Dance Studio and they made the cosmos rock — as far as I and the dancers could tell.
The participants? Clint on trumpet and vocal; Jim Klippert, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jason Vanderford, guitar; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.
Here’s where you can find out about future Wednesday Night Hops: the street address, the admission cost, directions.
And here’s the first part of the evening.
But a word before you immerse yourselves in the rocking hot sounds.
Some of my nicest readers gently write in, “Michael, you really should have put your camera here or there,” and I try not to let that SHOULD weigh too heavily on me. The gentle suggesters do not realize that I am at these gigs because the band members are generous kind people who put up with my presence and my camera. But the world is not my personal video studio and I am trying my best to be unobtrusive — not the jazz world’s Erich von Stroheim.
So at Mountain View I could have set up my camera under a huge whirring electric fan (needed to keep the dancers from heatstroke) or over the drums. I chose the latter and initially I was anxious. But necessity is not only an inventive mother — sometimes Miss Necessity is a real pal (think of Joan Blondell in the Thirties movies where she tells the naive heroine what really needs to be said).
Setting up close to Steve Apple was a religious experience, for he played with such quiet strength, such variety of sound and timbre, such deep swing that my vantage point was a true gift. You can hear how the horns floated on top of and through this blissful rhythm section . . . . and how they mixed 2012 swing with a beautiful New Orleans splendor! Clint’s solid lead would have made the masters grin; Bill Carter and Jim Klippert weave curlicues and romp on the harmonies in the best way — and those fellows in the back: Reinhart and Vanderford and Wilson would get my vote for Best String Trio anywhere. The real thing, alive and well.
Clint called DALLAS BLUES to start, which is the hallmark of a man who loves the music — and he had been playing Luis Russell in the car on the way down to Mountain View, always a good idea:
ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY is a sweet Jabbo Smith tune that’s getting more play these days (Eddie Erickson does it, too!) — romance in swingtime:
WHISPERING shows, once again, how a band sensitive to the dancers can swing anything:
RED SAILS IN THE SUNSET brings back 1935 Louis (this is a Decca band) and the New Orleans tradition of playing pop tunes rather than sticking to a narrow repertoire of “good old good ones”: I think of Bunk Johnson preferring PISTOL PACKIN’ MAMA and MARIA ELENA on dance gigs:
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, with the verse — and I swung my camera around to catch the expert hopping of Audrey Kanemoto, our heroine, and Manu Smith. Watching this video, I thought of the Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, who loved jazz and had been an amateur saxophonist in his homeland under a variety of occupations. In one of his novels, he has a passage describing playing in a band while the current love of his life is doing a beautiful expert vigorous Charleston to the music. He would have loved to see this band and these dancers:
There was no beer at Mountain View, although there were Fritos in little bags from the vending machine. Perhaps that’s why THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT came to mind. Or perhaps it was time for some Lowdown Groove, which I have not found in any vending machine:
WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP, a fast blues for the Lindy Hoppers:
I love SOLID OLD MAN — a simple line from the session that Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, and Billy Taylor did with Django in 1939:
KRAZY KAPERS is, as Clint mentions, a line on DIGA DIGA DOO — recorded first by Benny Carter in 1933 with one of our dream bands, featuring Floyd O’Brien, Chu Berry, Sidney Catlett, Teddy Wilson, Max Kaminsky, Lawrence Lucie, and Ernest Hill. (Thank you, John Hammond!):
My goodness! What a hot band! And there’s more to come.
May your happiness increase.