Tag Archives: Jazz At Chautauqua

“A HARMONY OF LIFE”: HOWARD ALDEN and TOM PLETCHER (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 20, 2009)

“Up among the stars we’ll find / A harmony of life to a lovely tune.”

Here are Howard Alden, guitar, and Tom Pletcher, cornet, sweetly making their way through Brooks Bowman’s EAST OF THE SUN (and West of the Moon) at the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, September 20, 2009:

I just learned that the title came from a Norwegian folk tale containing drugged beverages, a golden apple, trolls, a bear, a wicked stepmother, and more . . . but who needs words when the sounds embrace us so?

May your happiness increase!

THE MUSIC OF IRVING BERLIN: REBECCA KILGORE and JAMES DAPOGNY (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 29, 2006: audio only)

Simple math: seven memorable songs, two deeply intuitive improvisers, one jazz criminal with a hidden recorder = lasting magic.

I’d like to explain how this all came to pass, but if you’d like to skip down to the music and (perhaps) read this later, I won’t blame you.  That music is slightly under a half-hour of quiet splendor, casual mastery, great mutual warmth.  And it’s just what the title says: an audio recording of two of my heroes, Rebecca Kilgore and James Dapogny, in duet, performing Irving Berlin songs at the 2006 Jazz at Chautauqua.  I emphasize audio recording, although there is a still photograph of the Professor to please the eye, but this was before I had the courage to bring a camera to as many gigs as the law allowed.

James Dapogny at Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman.

Like Paul Muni, I confess to criminal acts.  But you are being rewarded, I hope, by my illicit behavior.

I first came to Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2004, my gift to myself for no longer being legally connected to a woman who disliked jazz (yes, I ask myself that same question now).  The party’s founder, Joe Boughton, had been friendly to me for a number of years and had been eager for me to come, to write about and publicize his weekend.

Ordinarily, I would have brought a recorder, but I knew that Joe was possessive about “his” music and very fierce about transgressions.  However, by 2006, I’d gotten bolder, and was pained by all the music vanishing into the air, so I took my new Sony digital recorder, slightly longer than a pack of cigarettes, with me.

Chautauqua is a ninety-minute car ride from the Buffalo airport, and a seven-hour drive from where I live (at least) so I did not want to make it evident that it was recording what was, in some ways, Joe’s private party to which we were invited.  I concealed the recorder in an outer pocket of my sportscoat, which will account for noise you hear as I moved slightly.  Those offended by the noise can say to themselves, “Sit still, Michael!” if it is any consolation.  There is crowd noise; someone says “Excuse me, Michael,” while stepping over me.

And then some of the most beautiful music I know begins.  I was seated closer to the piano than to Becky, so initially you might hear an imbalance of volume, but your ears adapt quickly — and Jim is playing so marvelously.

The songs are ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND / SHAKING THE BLUES AWAY / REACHING FOR THE MOON / ISN’T THIS A LOVELY DAY? / CHEEK TO CHEEK / COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS / IT’S A LOVELY DAY TODAY.  They cover an astonishing range of emotions, from sorrow to elation to hymnlike serenity.  And in case anyone has forgotten, every note and word is Berlin’s.

Please, enjoy this offering — blessings from Becky, Jim, and Irving:

Incidentally, this would have remained on a homemade compact disc if my Texas collector-friend Elbie, whom I told about this, hadn’t said, “Can’t you transfer audio to video?” and I found, to my surprise, that I could.  There will be many more “audio only” delights and surprises.

I didn’t sing or play a note.  But I am proud of my part in making this music permanent and accessible.  I hope you will allow me that.

May your happiness increase!

“THE DAPOGNY EFFECT,” or, PROF. TO THE RESCUE

James Dapogny at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman.

I am never sure how closely the audience at a live performance is paying attention to the details of the music being created in front of them.  Because I have spent a long time considering the subtleties of this holy art, I believe I hear and see more near-collisions than those who (happily) absorb only the outlines of the music.

I’m not boasting: my over-attentiveness is like being the person at the movies who can notice that a character went out the door in one scene with a green scarf and when we see her in the next shot — no scarf. . . not exactly like having perfect pitch, but the analogy might work.

Today, I am going to show-and-tell an experience that I happened to capture for posterity (or, perhaps, “for posterior”).  I present it not to embarrass the musicians I revere, but to praise their collective resilience, ingenuity, and perseverance.  In this case, that redemption in 4/4 is because of my hero, Professor James Dapogny, who might have cocked a skeptical eyebrow at what I am doing and said, “Michael, do you really need to do this?” and I would have explained why.

For those who already feel slightly impatient with the word-offering, I apologize.  Please come back tomorrow.  I’ll still be at it, and you will be welcome.

An uncharitable observer might consider the incident I am about to present and say, “Well, it’s all Marty Grosz’s fault.”  I would rather salute Marty: without a near-disaster, how could we have a triumphant transformation?  Or, unless Kitty escapes from her basket and climbs the tree, how can she be rescued by the firemen?  Precariousness becomes a virtue: ask any acrobat.

But this is about a performance of I WISHED ON THE MOON that Marty and Company attempted at Jazz at Chautauqua on a late morning or early afternoon session in September 2008, along with Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Chuck Wilson, alto saxophone; Dan Barrett, trombone; Professor Dapogny, piano; Marty, guitar and vocal; Vince Giordano, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.  The amateurish camera work in bright sunshine is evidence that it was one of my sub rosa escapades: I was using a Flip camera and trying to not get caught by the authorities.

We know Marty as a peerless work of nature: guitarist, singer, wit, artist, vaudevillian.  But many might not be aware that one of his great talents is arranging.  Yes, he can uplift an impromptu session on BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD, but he loves the effects that can be created by any ensemble with directions sketched out on manuscript paper and then hastily explained on the spot: “No repeats!” “jump to letter D,” “trumpet break at the start of the last chorus,” and so on.  Marty works hard on these things, and his earliest recordings — although he dismisses them as “‘prentice work” — show him in pursuit of the ideal: swinging, varied, surprising, effective.

But he is happier with pen and pencil than with the computer, so a Marty score is handwritten, in calligraphy that is italic, precise, lovely, but not as easy to read (especially in dim stage light, seen for the first time, without rehearsal) as the printed scores many musicians are used to in this century.

Thus, the possibility of chaos.  Thus, the possibility of triumph.

In the recording studio, when things start to go awry, musicians used to look at each other and break into a sort of Twenties near-hokey jamming, away from the score, and the “take” would end in laughter.  A “breakdown,” the recording engineer would call it.  Or the engineer would give a piercing whistle, to say, “Let’s start over.”  You can hear this on “rejected takes” by Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, and many other jazz heroes, that have been saved over the decades.  They are reassuring proof that our jazz-deities are human, that people get off on the wrong foot, that someone missed a cue or made a mistake.

In performance, though, in front of an audience, musicians do not want to stop and say, “We loused this up.  Let’s start over,” although I have seen it happen: it is the equivalent of Groucho speaking directly to the audience in a film, “breaking through the fourth wall,” and it is always surprising.

But back to our musical and heroic interlude.  I WISHED ON THE MOON is made famous by Billie Holiday, but it is not by any means a classic, a standard, part of “the repertoire” so often played that musicians perform it with full confidence (take AS LONG AS I LIVE as an example of the second kind).  MOON has its own twists and traps for the unwary.  The very expert musicians in this band, however, had at most been given a minute or two before the set to know the tune list and to glance at the manuscripts Marty had given them — roadmaps through the treacherous landscape.  But since everyone on this bandstand is a complete professional, with years of sight-reading and experience, it would not have been expected that they needed rehearsal to play a song like MOON.

That Marty gives directions to this crew before they start suggests to me that they hadn’t seen his score before, nor would they stand in front of the audience studying it and discussing it.  Professionals don’t want to give the impression that they are puzzled by any aspect of their craft while the people who have paid to see and hear them are waiting for the next aural delicacy to be served.

Thus, Professor Dapogny, who “knew the score,” plays his four-bar introduction with verve and assurance.  He knows where he is.  But the front line is faced with a score that calls for Dan Barrett, master melodist, to play the theme while the reeds back him up, and Dan Block, another sure-footed spellbinder, plays the bridge neatly.  Marty has his eyeglasses on — to read his own chart — and he essays a vocal, trusting to memory to guide him through the mostly-remembered lyrics, turning his lapses into comedy, more Fats than Billie.  While this is unrolling, the Professor’s rollicking supportive accompaniment is enthralling, although one has to make an effort to not be distracted by Marty’s vocalizing.

I feel his relief at “having gotten through that,” and lovely choruses by Duke Heitger and Dan Block, now on tenor saxophone, follow.  However, the performance has a somewhat homemade flavor to it — that is, unless we have been paying attention to the Professor’s marking the chords and transitions in a splendidly rhythmic way: on this rock, he shows us, we can build our jazz church.  He has, in the nicest and most necessary way, taken charge of the band.

At this point, my next-seat neighbor (there by chance, not connection) decides she needs more lemon or a napkin; her entrance and sudden arising are visually distracting, even now.

But, at around 3:55, the Professor says — with notes, not words — that he himself is going to climb the ladder and rescue Kitty; he is going to turn a possibly competent-but-flawed performance into SOMETHING.

And does he ever! — with a ringing phrase that causes both Marty and Dan Block to turn their heads, as if to say, “Wow, that’s the genuine article,” and the performance stands up, straightens its tie, brushes the crumbs off its lap, and rocks.  Please go back and observe a thrilling instant: a great artist completely in the moment, using everything he knows to focus a group of adult creators towards a desired result that is miles above what would have resulted if he had blandly played an ordinary accompaniment.

And you thought only Monk danced during his performances?  Watch Marty, joyously and goofily, respond to what his friend Jim has made happen.  After that, the band must decipher Marty’s swing hieroglyphics, his on-the-spot directions, “Play a fill!” and someone — to cover up a blank spot — whistles a phrase, and the performance half-swings, half-wanders to its conclusion.  Relief sweeps the bandstand.

These five minutes are highly imperfect, but also heroic: great improvisers making their courageous way through territory where their maps are ripped, unreadable, and incomplete — refusing to give up the quest.

If you need to understand why I have written so much about Professor Dapogny, why his absence is a huge void in my universe and that of others who knew and love him, watch this performance again for his masterful individualistic guidance: Toscanini in a safari jacket.  Completely irreplaceable, modeling joy and courage all at once.

May your happiness increase!

PAINTED PEACOCK AND PURPLE SUNBIRD: JON-ERIK KELLSO, TOM PLETCHER, BOB HAVENS, DAN BLOCK, BOB REITMEIER, EHUD ASHERIE, VINCE GIORDANO, HOWARD ALDEN, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 19, 2009)

Preparing to write this post, I needed to know, so I spent a few minutes while my coffee cooled, inquiring of Google, “Where is Hindustan located?”  And finally the reliable Encyclopedia Britanica (much more hip than the World Book Encyclopedia) of my childhood genially answered:

Hindustan, (Persian: “Land of the Indus”) also spelled Hindusthan, historically, the northern Indian subcontinent—in contrast to the Deccan, the southern portion of the Indian subcontinent. This area can be defined more particularly as the basin of the five Punjab rivers and the upper Indo-Gangetic Plain. As a mostly fertile and well-populated corridor situated between walls of mountain, desert, and sea, Hindustan has been regarded as the principal seat of power in South Asia, containing the bulk of wealth and physical energy. The name Hindustan is sometimes used to indicate the lands “north of the Vindhya Range.” It is also occasionally used as a synonym for the entire Indian subcontinent.

Now that’s settled.  Moving closer to our usual concerns, there is the 1918 hit song of the same name.  I didn’t know that one of the composers, Oliver Wallace, also wrote the score for Disney’s DUMBO; his collaborator, Harold Weeks, seems only to have composed HINDUSTAN.

A more erudite cultural historian schooled in “Orientalism” could write a great deal about the fascination in the late teens and early Twenties with popular songs celebrating the non-Western: THE SHEIK OF ARABY, SONG OF INDIA, SO LONG OOLONG, CHINA BOY, SAN, NAGASAKI, CHINATOWN MY CHINATOWN: songs that Americans and others sang and played, while they regarded people from those regions with suspicion — “You’re not from around here, are you?  Where were you born?” — and refused them employment and housing.  As a species, we are fascinating.

I think I first heard the song on Jean Shepherd’s radio program (circa 1969) and he is the reason I knew a portion of these lyrics — which, I confess, I also looked up this morning for accuracy: “HINDUSTAN, where we stopped to rest our tired caravan / HINDUSTAN, where the painted peacock proudly spreads his fan / HINDUSTAN, where the purple sunbird flashed across the sand /  HINDUSTAN, where I met her and the world began.”

“Where we stopped to rest our tired caravan”! This performance, from the 2009 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, is anything but tired, sparked by Jon-Erik Kellso’s idea of changing the key for every chorus (I believe between C and Eb). Trumpeter Jon is joined by Tom Pletcher, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:

Wow.  I’m off to find the painted peacock.

May your happiness increase!

SZECHUAN HOT (Part Five): BOB WILBER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 21, 2008)

Where it happened!

The last of five splendid performances that took place at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2008, celebrating the hot music of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four, enlivened in the present moment by Bob Wilber, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass.  The first four performances: THAT’S A PLENTY, SQUEEZE ME, SWEET SUE, and IF I COULD BE WITH YOU (ONE HOUR TONIGHT) can be savored here.

And the inspiration, although not on the original Hot Record Society label:

And here we go!

All I will say is that these informally-captured treasures have been in the Official JAZZ LIVES vault for a dozen years.  They haven’t gotten stale; in fact, their flavors seem richer today than ever.  Bless them all: Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, Carmen Mastren, Wellman Braud, Steve Smith (HRS record producer), Vince Giordano, Marty Grosz, Jon-Erik Kellso, Bob Wilber, Joe Boughton, family, and friends . . . even the people crossing in front of me with plates of food and Styrofoam cups of coffee, because they, as the audience, made Jazz at Chautauqua possible.  Days gone by.

May your happiness increase!

TWO QUARTERS FOR THE METER (Part Four): BOB WILBER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 21, 2008)

The scene of the gorgeous music, and now, the poignant memories:

Where it happened!

The inspiration:

The reality, as created forty-eight years later, by Bob Wilber, soprano saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass:

How lyrically they swing out — and before noon, no less.  For those of you who slept late (in a manner of speaking) here you can enjoy the first three songs performed that morning: THAT’S A PLENTY, SQUEEZE ME, and SWEET SUE.

Three footnotes.

My title . . . in my suburban town, parking meters ornament the sidewalks except for a very few oases.  And municipalities such as mine are always looking for more money, so when I moved here in 2004, a quarter bought me sixty minutes on the meter.  A few years ago, the Code Enforcement people decided that this was too generous, and now I’d need two quarters for the same time.  Love, or even a trip to the pizza parlor, became twice as costly.  But still worth the price.

The title of the song.  Exhibit A:

But also Exhibit B:

I prefer the latter, perhaps because I was trained by the late — and very much missed — John L. Fell, who would type WDYINO for the famous song about New Orleans.  Life is too short to spell everything out, and you can always ask.

Finally, when my hero Vic Dickenson, very late in his life, sang ONE HOUR, when he got to that phrase, he would very clearly and vehemently hold up two fingers so that everyone could see that sixty minutes would be insufficient for “I’d love you strong.”  You can see that performance here — a small masterpiece.

One more performance from 2008 exists: see you and it tomorrow.

May your happiness increase!

SINGULARLY SUSAN (Part Three): BOB WILBER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 21, 2008)

Where it happened!

As JAZZ LIVES waves adieu to 2020, we continue with our series of five memorably hot performances created at Jazz at Chautauqua on a Sunday morning, September 21, 2008, by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bob Wilber, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass — honoring irreplaceable recordings from 1940 featuring Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, Carmen Mastren, and Wellman Braud, known to us as the “Bechet-Spanier Big Four.”

If this is your first immersion in Hot, you can visit the first two splendid performances — THAT’S A PLENTY and SQUEEZE ME — here.

And here’s Will J. Harris and Victor Young’s 1928 paean to Miss Sue, with a charmingly period sheet music cover to start the good works.

and the sounds of 2008 as we — hopeful and cautious — peer into 2021:

May your happiness increase!

REWARDING PROXIMITY (Part Two): BOB WILBER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 21, 2008)

The holy relic of 1940 . . .

coming alive in the present tense, here:

thanks to Bob Wilber, soprano saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass.  For Part One (THAT’S A PLENTY) and more explication, click here.  Today, our breakfast menu has one item, Fats Waller’s airbrushing of THE BOY IN THE BOAT into SQUEEZE ME:

Delightful.  Timeless.  And this Big Four played three more.  No fractions.

May your happiness increase!

JOYOUS PLENITUDE (Part One): BOB WILBER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 21, 2008)

Evoking this, nearly seventy years later:

in this wonderful place.  Magical indeed.

It was a Sunday morning, 10:30 or so, and perhaps half of the audience was deep in contemplation of their breakfasts on September 21, 2008.

But magic larger than bacon and coffee was being revealed to us. We can revisit it now: festival director Joe Boughton’s idea to recreate the Bechet-Spanier Big Four of Blessed Memory (1940, Hot Record Society: Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, Carmen Mastren, Wellman Braud) with living Masters: Bob Wilber, clarinet and soprano; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass.  Five songs were performed, each a Hot Benediction:

I had no video empire then — no collection of cameras, tripods, batteries, external hard drives — and I recorded this quite surreptitiously.  But I didn’t want it to vanish.  For you, for me, forevermore.

May your happiness increase!

HOW ARE YOUR NERVES? A CONSULTATION WITH DUKE HEITGER, BOB REITMEIER, SCOTT ROBINSON, ANDY SCHUMM, DAN BARRETT, EHUD ASHERIE, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK TATE, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2009)

Is the world going a little too fast for you?  Is this your internal soundtrack?

Do you feel like a character in a Fleischer cartoon where everything’s too speedy to be brought under control?  (I mean no disrespect to the 1936 Henderson band — with spectacular playing on this fast blues, appropriately called JANGLED NERVES  — from Chu Berry, Roy Eldridge, Sidney Catlett, Fernando Arbello, and Buster Bailey.)

I believe the following interlude will calm and enliven your nerves at the same time.  It happened here, in a vanished but remembered past — the third weekend in September 2009 at Jazz at Chautauqua, Joe Boughton’s creation, at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York.

Joe loved to begin and end his weekend programs with ballad medleys, and here is a segment of one of them, featuring Duke Heitger, trumpet; Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Ehud Asherie, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass;, Pete Siers, drums.  The bill of fare is MEMORIES OF YOU (Duke), STARDUST (Bob), PRELUDE TO A KISS (Scott), OLD FOLKS (Andy), IF I HAD YOU (Dan, with the ensemble joining in):

Let’s see how you’re feeling tomorrow.  Leave a message with Mary Ann.

May your happiness increase!

www.vjm.biz

HEAVEN RIGHT HERE ON EARTH: MARTY GROSZ, JAMES DAPOGNY, JON BURR, PETE SIERS, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, BOB HAVENS, ANDY SCHUMM (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 19, 2014)

News flash: Laura Beth Wyman, the CEO of Wyman Video and a fellow videographer, has pointed out that in September 2014, Jazz at Chautauqua had morphed into the Allegheny Jazz Party and moved west to Cleveland.  Since a lesson of later life is that I have to live with my errors, I do so here: some of the prose details that follow are now in the wrong state, but the music still gleams.

Making the annual trip to the Athenaeum Hotel for the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend was never that easy, so once there I felt relief as well as excitement.  But it was heavenly once I could see the people I love whom I saw so rarely, and even more blissful once the music began.  Now, through the lens of 2020, Jazz at Chautauqua seems poignant as well as heavenly.

So it’s with those emotions — joy, nostalgia, wistfulness — that I offer you eight minutes of an elixir for the ears and heart: ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS, which used to be a medium-tempo saunter.  I present the first recording of this 1922 Creamer and Layton song, with its “Spanish tinge” verse.  And note that the Crescent City angels are wearing blue jeans, a garment that goes back to the end of the nineteenth century: see here:

But we can talk about clothing another time.  Now, a mighty crew of hot players take this jazz standard for a gentle yet propulsive ride: Marty Grosz, guitar; Andy Schumm, cornet; James Dapogny, our Prof., piano; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums. I offer a special bow of gratitude to Nancy Hancock Griffith, who we see briefly at the start: she never sat in on an instrument, but she and her mother, Kathy Hancock, made it all happen.

Such a weekend will probably never come again, but I bless the players and the organizers . . . and I’m grateful for my little camera, that made audio-visual souvenirs like this possible.

May your happiness increase!

A PRECIOUS BREW: BOB HAVENS, DAN LEVINSON, KEITH INGHAM (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 20, 2014)

I know it’s almost November, but the calendar is very forgiving when it comes to autumnal beauty, that is, until I have to take the snow shovel out of the closet.

Here, Kurt Weill’s gorgeous SEPTEMBER SONG is treated with love by this unusual trio: Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano — who performed at the 2014 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend in Chautauqua, New York:

Speaking of calendars, Bob Havens is 84 here: he’s a marvel.

Extra credit question: is SEPTEMBER SONG (lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) more memento mori or carpe diem?  Show your work.  Here’s the original version, sung by Walter Huston:

May your happiness increase!

WITH RUE MY HEART IS LADEN: REBECCA KILGORE SINGS FUD LIVINGSTON at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (with DAN BLOCK, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, FRANK TATE, PETE SIERS, September 18, 2011)

This fellow is little known except to connoisseurs of late-Twenties jazz.  He was a wonderful reedman, imaginative arranger, composer of modernistic melodies, but perhaps more people know Fud Livingston because of one mournful song:

Here’s our Becky — Rebecca Kilgore to those who haven’t yet taken her to their hearts — with Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Pete Siers, drums, performing this lament at the 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend:

Performances like this — consistently for several decades — are why, when someone says, “Have you heard the new singer _____?  She’s great!” I often say, “Before you launch someone at me, do you know Rebecca Kilgore’s work?”  Becky’s individual mix of delicacy and intensity here is so touching — her quiet emotional fervor, her beautiful natural-sounding phrasing and diction.  She’s it. Dan Block matches her in feeling: his vocalized sound is close to tears.  And that rhythm section: the very soul of soulful understated support.  Watching this, I feel so fortunate that I was there to witness this music and how glad I am to be able to share it with you.

A relevant postscript from our Jazz Eminence, Dan Morgenstern, who, in the late Fifties, was “in between,” and working at Colony Records in midtown New York City, the hours 7 pm to 4 AM:

A sad note: Fud Livingston, not quite sober, with a guy he wanted to show how many recordings there were of his “I’m through with Love” which I looked up for him in that big Phonolog. He was gassed that I knew who he was, or had been. Wanted to do an interview but didn’t connect…he was in twilight zone.   (This would have been before March 25, 1957, when Livingston, fifty, died.  I hope he made a good deal of money from the song’s appearance in SOME LIKE IT HOT, sung with breathless ardor by Marilyn Monroe.)

I can promise you more treasures created at Jazz at Chautauqua, although this one is singular in its art and feeling.

May your happiness increase!

 

ANOTHER “MONDAY DATE” TO REMEMBER: TOM PLETCHER, DAN BARRETT, BOB REITMEIER, JIM DAPOGNY, FRANK TATE, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2009)

Yesterday I published a post where four wonderful musicians — Eddy Davis, Conal Fowkes, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Evan Arntzen — improvised on OUR MONDAY DATE in December 2019 at Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village, New York City.  You can enjoy it here.  And I hope you do.

A MONDAY DATE has a personal resonance.  It’s not unique to me, but I haven’t had the pleasure of “being on a date” with a tangible person since the end of February (dinner and a festival of short animated films).  For me, songs about dating are poignant and hopeful: such encounters can come again, although the February evening was more short than animated.  Mirror-gazing over. Onwards.

This MONDAY DATE was performed at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2009, although not on a Monday.  These brilliant players are Tom Pletcher, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Jim Dapogny, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.  I was, as I have explained elsewhere, shooting video sub rosa without Joe Boughton’s permission, which lends a subversive air to the recording, but I was thrilled it came off, then and now.  It is a special pleasure to hear Jim’s piano ringing through, adding magic.

Jim Dapogny and Tom Pletcher are no longer with us: I’ve written about them here and (with a beautiful long essay by David Jellema) here.  Both posts also have video-recordings of performances you won’t see or hear elsewhere.

A note about “recordings” at Jazz at Chautauqua.  Joe Boughton was enthusiastically kind to me long before we met in person: he recognized that we adored the same music.  When I visited Chautauqua in 2004, he greeted me warmly, and I spent the whole weekend writing about the joys I experienced there, and wrote the program biographies for more than ten years.

Joe had certain aversions, in large type.  The most dramatic was his loathing for over-familiar songs: SATIN DOLL, SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, slow blues, and more.  Musicians who broke this rule were asked not to return — in one case, in the middle of the weekend.  Secondly, although Joe apparently recorded every note of the weekends I came to — someone operated a videocamera high above our heads — he would not tolerate anyone else recording anything, although he let an amateur jazz photographer make low-quality cassettes.  I gave Joe valuable publicity in The Mississippi Rag, which he appreciated: I don’t know whether he saw me with my camera and tacitly accepted it as part of the Michael-bargain or whether he was too busy with the music to notice, but I send him deep gratitude now.  I hope you do also.

May your happiness increase!

JIM DAPOGNY, NOT FORGOTTEN

Jim Dapogny, September 2, 2018, photograph by Laura Beth Wyman (Wyman Video)

He answered to various names.  Jim Dapogny, James Dapogny, Professor Dapogny, “American musicologist,” as an online source calls him.  I prefer to think of him as admired artist, departed friend.

Jim would have turned eighty today, September 3, 2020. He didn’t make it that far, moving somewhere undefined and inaccessible on March 6, 2019.  I have not gotten used to his absence, and I am not alone.  Others knew him better, longer, at closer range, but his absence is something tangible.

I promised myself I would not write a post on the metaphysics of bereavement, but rather offer evidence so those who never heard Jim in person would understand more deeply why he is so missed.

I can’t reproduce here the pleasure of having him speak knowledgeably yet without pretension about the dishes of brightly-colored ethnic food spread in front of us.  Nor can I convey to you his gleaming eyes as he spoke of a favorite dog or the mysterious voicings of a Thirties Ellington record.  And it is beyond my powers to summon up the way he would nearly collapse into giggles while retelling a cherished interlude of stand-up comedy — not a joke, but a presentation — by someone none of us had heard of.

Those who were there will understand the serious yet easy pleasure of his company, the way he was always himself, wise but never insisting that we bow down to his wisdom.  I can only write that he was was boyish in his joys but modest about his own accomplishments, and so gracious in his eager openness to different perspectives.  Those who never had the good fortune of seeing him plain — counting off a tempo by clapping his hands in mid-air, crossing one leg over the other when particularly happy at the keyboard — should know that they missed someone extraordinary.

Jim and I communicated more by email than in any other way, but I did meet him once a year at Jazz at Chautauqua, then the Allegheny Jazz Party, then the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, from 2004 to 2016, with a year out when he couldn’t join us because of illness.  I made a point of going from New York to Maryland to hear his “East Coast Chicagoans” in 2012, and visited him and dear friends in Ann Arbor a few years later.  It is one of my greatest regrets, on a substantial list, that I never made it back for a return engagement.

Our remarkable friend Laura Beth Wyman caught Jim explaining something to me in the informal classroom of a parking lot at the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival, and I treasure this moment:

But let us move out of the parking lot before darkness falls.

Here is Jim, with Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass, performing his own FIREFLY (blessedly captured by Wyman Video):

Jim loved the blues, and enjoyed window-shopping in their apparently austere structure, peering in at unusual angles, so what was expected — nothing more than three chords repeating over twelve bars — was all of a sudden a hand-knit tapestry, subtle but ornamented, full of dips and whorls.

I caught him “warming up the piano” at the 2014 Jazz at Chautauqua, in what I think of as full reverie, monarch of an emotional landscape where he and the blues were the only inhabitants, where he could ignore people walking by, and also ignore my camera.  This, dear readers, is the quiet triumph of thought, of feeling, of beauty:

Here he and beloved colleagues create and recreate the TIN ROOF BLUES (al fresco, in rain or post-rain, at the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival): Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Russ Whitman, tenor saxophone; Rod McDonald, guitar; Dean Ross, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:

Jim was thoughtful but not morose.  He delighted in swing and stomp, so here’s COME EASY, GO EASY LOVE, from the same weekend:

One of his set pieces not only was a rousing jam on more austere themes but also a nod to his love of comic surprise, WASHINGTON POST MARCH:

There is much more that could be said, more that can be seen and heard.

But the important thing is this: he remains a model for me and others.  Quietly and without affectation, Jim lived so deeply and generously that we will not forget him nor stop missing him.

May your happiness increase!

A THURSDAY NIGHT, SIX MUSICIANS, SIX MINUTES (September 17, 2009)

I’ve been digging into my archives of performances I video-recorded but hadn’t yet shared, and I have a small jewel for you, from the informal Thursday-night jam sessions at Jazz at Chautauqua, almost eleven years ago.  I had a slightly less sophisticated camera; I’m sitting behind friends . . . but I think those are minor flaws compared to the lovely music.  The song is CHINATOWN; the musicians are Pete Siers, drums; Frank Tate, string bass; Ehud Asherie, piano; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Duke Heitger, trumpet.  And they play.

Won’t you join me?  It’s better than a virtual visit to any non-musical healer.

May your happiness increase!

LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF SWEETNESS: HARRY ALLEN, DAN BLOCK, BOB HAVENS, DUKE HEITGER, ANDY SCHUMM, RANDY REINHART, ANDY STEIN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK TATE, JOHN VON OHLEN (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 22, 2013)

Another of the wondrous ballad medleys that used to begin and end the splendid jazz weekend, Jazz at Chautauqua: here, from 2013.  And, because it’s daylight, it was the medley that sent us all home, exhausted by pleasure, on a Sunday afternoon.

The roadmap: After a few of the usual hi-jinks, the rescue squad finds a second microphone for Marty Grosz, Harry Allen plays EASY LIVING; Dan Block, DAY DREAM; Bob Havens essays CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN; Duke Heitger finishes off this segment with I KNOW WHY (And So Do You):

I had to put a new battery in at this point, so I missed a few choruses (you’ll see Dan Levinson leaving the stage — my apologies to Dan and the other musicians I couldn’t capture).

Then, Randy Reiinhart plays MY FUNNY VALENTINE; Andy Schumm follows, politely, with PLEASE; Andy Stein calls for LAURA; Marty takes the stage by himself for the Horace Gerlach classic IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN; Rossano Sportiello plays SOPHISTICATED LADY, so beautifully:

Those would have been the closing notes of the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua: another unforgettable interlude of music and friendship.  Bless the musicians, bless the shade of Joe Boughton and bless his living family, bless Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock.  Those experiences are unforgettable evidence that once, such things were beautifully possible, and we witnessed them — me, with a video camera.  How fortunate we were!

May your happiness increase!

 

HER TENDER MAGIC: BECKY KILGORE and FRIENDS (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 21-22, 2012)

Archaeologists always exult over their discoveries — a bone-handled spoon, a bird-skeleton.  Wonderful, I guess.  But when I go back into my YouTube archives, I come up with Rebecca Kilgore and friends touching our hearts.  I’ll trade that for any noseless bust or porcelain ornament.

So very touching: featuring one of the greatest singers I know in a September 21st late-night set with Duke Heitger’s Swing Band at Jazz at Chautauqua: the other members of the Band are Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, alto saxophone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Mike Greensill, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums:

And the next night, Becky sent the Fellows off so that she and Keith Ingham could perform IT’S ALWAYS YOU, a 1941 Jimmy Van Heusen – Johnny Burke song from THE ROAD TO ZANZIBAR, song — of course — by Mr. Crosby to Ms. Lamour:

Such lovely sounds — beyond compare for knowing sweetness.

May your happiness increase!

“HAPPY MEMORIES”: JON-ERIK KELLSO, BOB HAVENS, DAN BLOCK, JOHN SHERIDAN, TOM BOGARDUS, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2013)

The music that follows requires some prelude.  It was created at the now-legendary Jazz at Chautauqua, almost seven years ago — which seems like several lifetimes.  The founder and imperial monarch of this jazz weekend, Joe Boughton, responsible for so many hours and days of wonderful jazz music, loathed what he thought of as overplayed repertoire.  SWEET GEORGIA BROWN was forbidden; A GARDEN IN THE RAIN was bliss.  Not for him Hot Lips Page’s ecumenical idea, “The material is immaterial.”  But, whether it was Jon-Erik Kellso’s idea or Joe’s, a set called “‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS,” its repertoire consisting of well-worn Bourbon Street favorites, happened.  And it was wonderful.

The regular band was Pete Siers, drums; Kerry Lewis, string bass; John Sheridan, piano; Dan Block, clarinet; Bob Havens, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso,  trumpet.  But one of Jon-Erik’s Michigander friends, the fine multi-instrumentalist — clarinet, soprano saxophone, banjo, tenor guitar and perhaps more — Tom Bogardus, was also at Chautauqua, and Jon-Erik not only invited him to join in for this set, but Howard Alden generously lent Tom his tenor banjo and Tom added so much to the sound.  He told me recently, “This was a big night in my musical career, getting to play with these outstanding musicians in today’s jazz. I am so thankful that Jon-Erik asked me and Howard Alden let me use his banjo. Now I have video proof.  It’s a 4 string tenor banjo with traditional tenor tuning. I think it’s a Bacon & Day, but am not sure.”

Before we move on to the music, a small — possibly irrelevant — personal note.  I sat at my table with my video camera on a tripod, as if it were my date, and the world of people talking, getting up for drink refills, and having dinner happily swirled around me.  So the first voice you will hear on the first video is the amiable waitperson asking me, as they are trained to do, if I was finished, “Can I take that away for you?  Are you through?” which is really, “Let me get all the dishes off the tables as we are required to do,” and my response — I am proud to say, not in a snarl, “No.”  My people have certain boundary issues: “Touch my food if I haven’t offered it to you, and I will be unhappy,” which is why I weigh more now than in 2013.  But I digress.

‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

BASIN STREET BLUES, featuring Bob Havens:

MUSKRAT RAMBLE:

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?:

and a quick set-closer, SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE:

Alas, Jazz at Chautauqua and its successors, the Allegheny Jazz Party and the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, are no more, but we have our happy memories and these videos.  Incidentally, when I asked Jon-Erik for permission to post these videos, “Happy memories!” is what he said.  So true.  Thanks to the musicians, to Joe Boughton and all his family, to Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock.  And to my polite waitperson: can’t forget her.

May your happiness increase!

“SAY THAT EVERYTHING IS STILL OKAY”: REBECCA KILGORE, HARRY ALLEN, BOB HAVENS, FRANK TATE, JOHN SHERIDAN (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 20, 2012)

I have little to complain about in tangible things, but today’s mood is such that this meme (courtesy of dear friend Amy King) provoked rueful laughter and recognition:

Those of you who don’t know what a “meme” is can dial one of the grandkids.  “Kinky,” you’re on your own.

Today I thought that cheerful hot music would be out of place, so here is a beautifully rueful creation.

The superficial portrait of Irving Berlin is that he wrote cheerful music, with exceptions like WHAT’LL I DO? and REMEMBER.  But he is also powerfully poignant about romance that has deflated or perished, as in SAY IT ISN’T SO — its title characteristically taken from a popular conversational phrase.  But when Becky Kilgore and her lightly swinging friends approach it, the sadness is balanced against the gentle motion of the beat, everyone’s personal phrasing.  Her friends are Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; John Sheridan, piano; Frank Tate, string bass.

This performance magically unfolded in front of us (and my camera) on Thursday night, September 20, 2012, at the informal session that began Jazz at Chautauqua at the Hotel Athenaeum.  Fabled times, lovely music.

May your happiness increase!

I FEEL SUCH A THRILL (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 22, 2012)

This one’s for my friend Sarah Boughton Holt and brothers Bill and David — another glorious performance from the memorable Jazz at Chautauqua weekends created and overseen by Joe Boughton.

What would a jazz festival be without a tribute to Horace Gerlach — that is also an evocation of Louis Armstrong? Here are just the people to do it in their own way: Duke Heitger, trumpet, Dan Block, clarinet and vocal, Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone and taragoto; Dan Barrett, trombone; Mike Greensill, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums.

I love Dan Block’s crooning (what a fine singer he is!) and the riffs that make this a BAND rather than an all-star collation of soloists waiting for their solo turns:

How fortunate we were to be there.  Share some of that good fortune with people who like it Hot.

May your happiness increase!


IT SIMPLY MUST BE JELLY: REBECCA KILGORE, HOWARD ALDEN, KERRY LEWIS, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, RICKY MALACHI, DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, SCOTT ROBINSON (September 20, 2012: Jazz at Chautauqua)

Yes, the ceilings leaked at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, and every year there were new Rorschach-blot patterns (is that a bird, a monkey, or a shapely leg?) above me.  The venerable elevator provoked anxiety.  But inside this hotel, one September weekend, starting for me in 2004, some of the best music I’ve ever witnessed was created for us, thanks to a stunning assortment of musicians.  Here’s a lovely interlude; watching it, I rub my eyes: did such things happen? Well, thank the Goddess for video evidence that I can share with you.

There will of course be debate over Jelly Roll Morton’s birthdate — September or October 20? — but there should be no debating the beauty of this performance, another treasure from the 2020 JAZZ LIVES Archaeological Dig. Here’s our Becky — Rebecca Kilgore — subtly embracing the song as only she can — with the noble help of Ricky Malachi, drums; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Howard Alden, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Scott Robinson, clarinet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Duke Heitger, trumpet.

Don’t want no regular!

Thanks not only to the musicians, but to the Emperor of it all, Joe Boughton, his family (hello to Sarah, Bill, and David!) and his friendly Chiefs of Staff and Official Diplomats, Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock.  Moments like this vibrate in the memory.

May your happiness increase!