Tag Archives: Jazz At Chautauqua

CHUCK WILSON, ADMIRED, LOVED, MISSED

I’ve come to think that one goal is to live one’s life whole-heartedly, generously, singularly, so that when one dies — moving to another neighborhood in the cosmos — one is missed.  Or, there is a hole shaped like you in the world that people notice.  “I wish Susie were here to have a piece of this pie.  I wish I could give Liz just one more hug.” and so on.

The alto saxophonist and sometime clarinetist Chuck Wilson, who died on October 16, accomplished that goal and more.

A CD worth searching for — a beauty in so many ways.

I saw and heard Chuck intermittently from 2004 to 2016, in Jazz at Chautauqua with the Alden-Barrett Quartet, and in various New York groups, including Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, the EarRegulars, with Corin Stiggall and Carol Morgan, but I can’t say I knew him well.  So I will leave the anecdotes to others, and the outline of his biography also.  I did observe him at close range as an unusual man and player: part shy boy, part boisterous side-of-the-mouth wisecracker and social critic.  His playing was just so splendid, although I think he rarely wanted to step forward and lead — any sax section or any band that had Chuck in it immediately sounded so much better.  His sound was lovely.  And he understood both his horn and the music.

Chuck was initially very wary of my video camera (and perhaps also of the civilian who operated it) but eventually he 1) figured that I wasn’t out to embarrass him but to praise him, or 2) I wouldn’t go away so there was no use telling me to do so.  So I have a few — too few! — performance videos of him which I will share again with you — so that you who knew Chuck can have the bittersweet joy of having him in action, and that those who never heard him can regret the omission.

Here he is with Terry Waldo’s Gotham City Band — for that August 2016 afternoon, Chuck, Terry, Jim Fryer, Jay Leonhart, Jay Lepley, playing DIGA DIGA DOO in what I think of as a Fifty-Second Street manner:

And here, at The Ear Inn on May 30, 2010 with Danny Tobias, James Chirillo, Pat O’Leary, for a easy groovy EXACTLY LIKE YOU:

I wish there had been more opportunities to capture Chuck live: many things got in the way, but you can savor another large handful of performances from these gigs here and here.

I also hope that Chuck knew how much he was admired and loved.  And is.

May your happiness increase!

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UNEARTHED TREASURES: MARTY GROSZ, DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, RICKY MALICHI at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

A few more previously unseen beauties from the September 2012 appearance of Marty Grosz and his Sentient Stompers at the much-missed Jazz at Chautauqua, held at the Hotel Athenaeum.

Faithful readers will know I and my team of Oxford University-trained archaeologists have been uncovering marvels this year, featuring (collectively) Marty, Andy Schumm, Scott Robinson, John Sheridan, Kerry Lewis, Pete Siers, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Bob Havens.  The findings are on view here, and here,  and here.  Don’t push; don’t crowd.  All of them, including this post, come with great gratitude to Nancy Hancock Griffith, and those of us who were there know why.

And now, three more marvels by the gentlemen listed in the post’s title.  For the uninitiated, Marty Grosz, guitar and occasional banter; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, taragoto, tenor saxophone; Dan Block, clarinet, bass clarinet, and trumpet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.  And you’ll notice that these splendid improvisers are also sight-reading Marty’s arrangements, another thing to admire them for.

First a very Ellingtonian approach to the theme of erotic expertise:

Then, a swinging arrangement of TOO MARVELOUS FOR WORDS, with an intro that sounds like BIG CHIEF DE SOTA (also circa 1937) and with room for a wonderful surprise: Dan Block on trumpet:

Musical savagery from the early Thirties, with Dan Block’s bass clarinet solo:

What treasures!  To me, worth more than unearthed Troy.  But that’s just me.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURES, CONTINUED: MARTY GROSZ, ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, PETE SIERS: JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

Jazz groups often choose well-established formats: the piano trio; the bebop quintet; the trad or swing sextet.  But “unorthodox” bands offer wonderful surprises.

“Tell us a story, Mister Grosz!” Photo by Lynn Redmile

Marty Grosz likes such original assemblages: two  horns, guitar and string bass, for instance, all unamplified.  And in the case of this morning set at Jazz at Chautauqua, not so long ago, Marty assembled two especially nimble horn players, a pianist, himself, and a very sensitive drummer who used snare and wire brushes only.  It happened in this century, but it felt like a dream of the old days, thanks to Andy Schumm, Scott Robinson, John Sheridan, and Pete Siers.  Now, thanks to the glories of teleportation, and thanks to Nancy Hancock Griffith, we can go there also.

Calling Mr. Berlin!

Marty without Fats just wouldn’t be Marty:

and a homage to the esteemed and elusive Horace Gerlach and his co-composer, Mister Strong:

Marty turned 88 — yes, eighty-eight — a few days ago.  He probably won’t see this post, but it is a deeply admiring salute to his delightful selves.  This place wouldn’t be the same without him.  And here’s a 2013 missive from MOG:

May your happiness increase!

A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN: JON-ERIK KELLSO SPEAKS WITH MONK ROWE (September 12, 1997)

Over the past fourteen years, I’ve been privileged to have many conversations, serious and hilarious, with the most admirable musician Jon-Erik Kellso.  He picks his words carefully, often as whimsical commentaries on some passing absurdity.  Jon doesn’t need twenty choruses to speak his piece, but what he says is solid.

Thus it was a pleasure and a surprise to find this video interview done by the gracious Monk Rowe for the Fillius Jazz Archive at Hamilton College September 1997 (at that time I’d heard and admired Jon on recordings but hadn’t yet encountered him in person) at Jazz at Chautauqua . . . those familiar with the Hotel Athenaeum will recognize the wallpaper.

Monk leads Jon-Erik through his fortunate blossomings as a musician, improviser, and trumpeter: along the way there are quiet irreplaceable insights about the trumpet’s role in the improvising ensemble, a loving tribute to Milt Hinton, and much more.

I’m not sure what Jon-Erik, in 2018, thinks of his young self, but this boyish fellow acquits himself with easy grace:

For many more of these wonderful interviews, some done by eminent musicians as well as the amiable Mr. Rowe, visit here.  And for a splendidly tonic infusion of the Kellso magic — cage-free and organic — check this out.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY, SO RARE: HIDDEN TREASURES FROM JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, BOB HAVENS, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS (September 23, 2012)

When it’s good, you know it.  When it’s sublime, you feel it.  Here are four previously unseen treasures from the sprawling JAZZ LIVES vault of video sweetness, recorded at the Hotel Athenaeum in Chautauqua, New York, on September 23, 2012, during the delightful gathering of cosmic energies once called “Jazz at Chautauqua,” the creation of Joe Boughton and then Nancy Hancock Griffith.

We take so much for granted, and on paper, this set might just have seemed another pleasing interlude in a long weekend of delights — a Sunday-brunch set focused on the music of Louis Armstrong.  With other players, even such an inspiring theme could have turned into genial formula.  But not with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Scott Robinson, metal clarinet, tenor saxophone, and taragoto; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

How they soar.  How tenderly they caress the music.  You’ll experience it for yourselves.

First, a WEARY BLUES that gently piles delight upon delight, a  great piece of Hot Architecture reaching toward the sky:

and, with some priceless commentary from Scott Robinson — erudite comedy gently coming to earth as a loving tribute to Joe Muranyi, who loved to play BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN:

“Right on it,” as they say, with Mr. Robinson on the tenor, for ONCE IN A WHILE, where the rhythm section shines:

If the closing ninety seconds of that performance doesn’t make you jubilant, then perhaps you should consider seeing a specialist.

What could be better to close off such a glorious episode than an expression of gratitude, in this case, THANKS A MILLION, beginning with a Kellso-Sheridan duet on the verse:

I find that performance incredibly tender: gratitude not only from the musicians to the audience, but to Louis and the worlds he created for us.

Perhaps it’s true that “you can’t go home again,” but if I could book a flight to Buffalo in the certainty that I would see this band again, I’d be packed and ready.  Maybe it’s because I can’t get back to this morning in September 2012 in some temporal way that I feel so deeply the precious vibrations these ministers of swinging grace offer us.  Bless them.  It was a privilege to be there, an honor to be allowed to capture this for posterity.

Watch this with full attention; savor it; share it; exult in it.  Let us never take beauty for granted.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURE: MARTY GROSZ and THE CELLAR BOYS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 22, 2012): ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS

Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known

When you’ve shot as many videos as I have — over a decade’s worth — there’s a sizable treasure chest of the unseen.  Sometimes videos are buried for good reason, the primary one being musicians’ unhappiness with the results.  And since we aim to please, I don’t post what offends the creators.

But a few weeks ago, during an atypical tussle with insomnia, I was sitting at my computer at 3:30 AM, looking at unlisted videos stored safely on YouTube, and I found this rousing delight.  The musicians who like to approve of my postings have approved, so I can share it with you.  It’s a hot half-hour with Marty Grosz and his Cellar Boys, from Jazz at Chautauqua, probably a Sunday morning, the exact date noted above.

That’s Marty on guitar, vocal, commentary (yes, he does like to expound, but commenters who complain will be teleported to another blog); Andy Schumm, cornet and miscellaneous instrument; Scott Robinson, reeds and inventiveness; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

The real breadstick, as Marty would say.

Sucrose, no corn syrup:

Don’t tell me different — I know I’m right!  Watch Andy and Scott do magic:

And a series of wonderful hot surprises:

Once, when I was in Dublin, I found the Oxfam charity shop (as they would call it) and sniffed out the small shelf of recordings.  Very little of interest, but there was one jazz lp — autographed by the band, and the band had Keith Ingham in it. I clutched it to my chest, fearful that someone would steal it away, and when I approached the cash register, the gracious woman volunteer looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, YOU’VE found a treasure, haven’t you?”

That’s how I feel about these videos.  Blessings on the musicians and of course on Nancy Hancock Griffith, who made it all possible.

May your happiness increase!

MARTY GROSZ’S “BIXIANA”: “I’M LOOKING OVER A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER” (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2011)

Days gone by, but not days beyond recall — afternoons and evenings in September 2011 at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York — for the late Joe Boughton’s annual jazz weekend.  Because I am feeling more than a little melancholy at the news of the end of the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, I thought I’d share some music from the glory days — to ease the feelings.

Here is one stomping example of the goodness that I was privileged to witness from 2004 to 2017.  It comes from a Marty Grosz set devoted to songs associated with Bix Beiderbecke, performed in styles he wouldn’t necessarily have known.  (Marty’s opening interlude reminds me pleasantly of Alex Hill’s MADAM DYNAMITE, recorded two years after Bix’s death.)

The band includes Marty, guitar and inventive arrangements; Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan Block and Scott Robinson, reeds; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, bass; Pete Siers, drums, performing a song I know from the Goldkette Victor — a song of romantic optimism that is perhaps now best known in the banjo-and-let’s-all-sing genre, but it gets up and moves around nicely, not only because of the hot solos, but because of the truly varied and rich arrangement:

“We’ll always have Chautauqua.  And Cleveland,” says some famous film actor.

May your happiness increase!