The late Leroy “Sam” Parkins used to say of very special music that it got him “right in the gizzard.” Since I am not a chicken, I have serious doubts that I have a gizzard or where it might be located, but I know when music “gets” me, because I want to hear and see it over and over.
Here are three wonderful performances by the singer Dawn Giblin, pianist James Dapogny, and cellist Mike Karoub — recorded splendidly by JAZZ LIVES’ Michigan bureau chief Laura Wyman of Wyman Video on May 7, 2017. I don’t have the requisite adjectives — all exuberant — to describe the sounds of the Dawn Giblin Trio at Cliff Bell’s . . . but this is a gorgeously intuitive and swinging chamber trio that gets to the heart of the music from the first note. Professor Dapogny and Maestro Karoub are masters of swing and feeling: warmth and swing invented on the spot, and Dawn both reassures and surprises with each phrase.
Experience these wonders for yourself. Your gizzard will thank you.
First, the Harry Ruby – Rube Bloom GIVE ME THE SIMPLE LIFE, a song that many people have taken to heart, and rightly so. But if one listens closely, the bare bones of the melody are one simple rhythmic phrase, moved around for 24 of the song’s 32 bars. . . . so it needs a very subtle singer to vary the emphasis on that phrase so the song doesn’t seem mechanical. I encourage you, on your second or third listening, to pay close admiring attention to how Dawn shades and varies her phrasing so that her delivery is both conversationally familiar and full of small delightful shocks. Hear the climbing way she approaches the final bridge! (More about the song’s provenance below.)
And here’s the cheerful song — but not too fast:
The shifting densities of Dawn’s voice — emphasis without overkill, hints of gospel, blues, and folk — are delicious.
Here’s a song that makes everyone who sings or plays it comfortable: I think of Ella Fitzgerald in her girlhood, Marty Grosz, Fats Waller, Helen Ward, Rebecca Kilgore, Taft Jordan with Willie Bryant and many others. . . . Sam Stept and Sidney Mitchell’s ALL MY LIFE:
A beautiful tempo and small homages to Teddy Wilson from Professor Dapogny and that most beautiful sound, Maestro Karoub’s singing cello.
Finally, the Romberg – Hammerstein classic LOVER, COME BACK TO ME — a performance that would make indoor plants shoot up in rhythmic joy.
and now the question of provenance, although it’s not something to cause nation-wide insomnia. Consider these two pieces of evidence:
While you’re musing over this, consider how we can have many CDs by the Dawn Giblin Trio in exactly this formulation. It’s a dream of mine. And gratitude a-plenty not only to the musicians, but to Laura Wyman for her very fine video work.
I wrote elsewhere on this blog recently that so many of the songs in what we call the Great American Songbook are about the desolation of lost love, love unsuccessfully yearned for, love that has been broken past repair.
As a corrective, I offer two chamber-music improvisations on happier themes, created by James Dapogny and Strings at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 10, 2015. This quartet — formal in aspect but lively in spirit — is Dapogny at the piano; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass. No amplification requested or applied, and the lovely videos are the work of Laura Beth Wyman.
I am sure it is only a narrative I have created out of my essential romanticism and optimism, but the two songs below describe a brief play of risk-taking that is sure to bring deep rewards, and the delight of fulfillment. May it be so for those listening as well!
Vernon Duke’s cheerful TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE (impossible for me to hear this song without hearing Ethel Waters singing it as well):
And the full quartet returns for the Jimmy McHugh – Dorothy Fields EXACTLY LIKE YOU, a song that so epitomizes the most elated feelings of lovers at their most rapturous: “YOU are the only person I have ever wanted to be with, and our connection has been pre-ordained by both the cosmos and my Mother!”:
I have listened to these performances many times, and find them delightfully contradictory: on one hand, there is a priceless translucency, all of the component parts shining and apparently weightless — yet these performances are musically dense, and each time I listen I have the epiphanies, “Did you hear what he did there, how he responded?” Playful brilliance at every turn, never showy or self-referential. Thank you so much, James, Rod, Mike, Kurt, and Laura.
I have posted other performances from this gig, and hereis an uplifting place to begin.
Bassist, cellist, and composer Oscar Pettiford is in the odd position of being both legendary and forgotten (as Whitney Balliett wrote of Pee Wee Russell). If you ask any aficionado of jazz string bass playing to name a dozen favorites — living and dead — it’s likely that the names will come easily. But Pettiford’s is often not among them.
Yes, he died young, but not before performing and recording every famous musician (with some notable exceptions) in a short career. An incomplete list would include Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Charlie Christian, Gil Evans, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins, Ray Charles, Stan Getz, Lucky Thompson, Charles Mingus, Zoot Sims, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, Julius Watkins, Ben Webster, Sammy Price, Ruby Braff, Mel Powell, Ellis Larkins, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Billie Holiday, Red Norvo, Clifford Brown, Buddy De Franco, Phineas Newborn, Kai Winding, Roy Eldridge, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, Don Byas, Clyde Hart, Earl Hines, Budd Johnson, Joe Thomas, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Martial Solal, Attlia Zoller, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Billy Eckstine, Cozy Cole, Shadow Wilson, Charlie Shavers, Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, Cootie Williams, Ed Hall, Lawrence Brown, Sonny Greer, Maxine Sullivan, Dick Hyman, Eddie Bert, Joe Derise, Ike Quebec, Jonah Jones, Buck Clayton, Helen Humes, Benny Harris, Boyd Raeburn, Serge Chaloff, Howard McGhee, Sir Charles Thompson, Wynonie Harris, Vic Dickenson, Red Rodney, Tal Farlow, Denzil Best, Jo Jones, Leo Parker, Al Haig, Al Hibbler, Nat Pierce, Bill Harris, Howard McGhee, J.J. Johnson, Art Taylor, Wynton Kelly, Lockjaw Davis, Jackie McLean, Kenny Clarke, Dave McKenna, Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Chris Connor, Hank Jones, Earl Coleman, Thad Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Donald Byrd, Billy Taylor, Chuck Wayne, Roy Haynes, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce, Al Cohn, Frank Wess, Jimmy Cleveland, Barry Galbraith, Joe Morello, Joe Wilder, Harry Lookofsky, Jimmy Jones, Urbie Green, Ernie Royal, Herbie Mann, George Barnes, Clark Terry, Dave Schildkraut, Helen Merrill, Jimmy Raney, Horace Silver, Doug Mettome, Quincy Jones, Duke Jordan, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham, Cecil Payne, Toots Thielmans, Red Garland.
This suggests that Oscar’s peers respected him and called him for gigs and recordings. It’s not as if he was obscure: his career was longer than, say, Blanton’s or Steve Brown’s. But, oddly for jazz, which loves to mythologize the musicians who die young and abruptly (and Pettiford died as the result of a 1960 automobile accident) he hasn’t received the benefit of the weird reverence fans and writers have for the young dead.
Of course, it could be that bass players don’t get the respect they and their instruments deserve, but it is and was hard to ignore Pettiford on a session. He offered a rhythmic foundation that was powerful rather than obtrusive, but when he soloed, his lines have the solid eloquence that any horn player would aspire to — while seeming light rather than ponderous. And as the list of players above suggests, his musical range was exceedingly broad: he wasn’t captured on record in free jazz or ragtime, but he elevated every other variety of jazz and jazz vocal performance he was part of. Had he lived longer, he might have enjoyed the visibility of a Milt Hinton or a Ray Brown, but we have only brief moments of him on film (the 1945 THE CRIMSON CANARY) and a few seconds of his speaking voice.
Surely he should be better known.
Enough words and keystrokes for the moment: listen to his 1960 feature on WILLOW WEEP FOR ME:
and here he is, playing his own BLUES IN THE CLOSET — from a little-known 1953 television broadcast — on cello (which he took to for a time after breaking an arm in a baseball game):
And his stirring solo on STARDUST:
Now, two pieces of good news that might go some distance in making Oscar’s name and music known to a larger audience. One is that there is a YouTube channel, PettifordJazz, with sixty videos of Pettiford solos, ensembles, and compositions. That means that no one has to start collecting Oscar’s music — it is being made available to all for free.
Oscar (or “O.P.”, as his colleagues called him) also spent the last two years of his life in Europe (mostly in Scandinavia and Germany), and recorded often there. Sessions with guitarist Attila Zoller have been issued and reissued on a variety of labels (in the vinyl era, they appeared on Black Lion) and a famous 1960 concert in Essen with Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Coleman Hawkins was available forty years ago. Recordings made in 1958-59 for the German radio network have now been issued for the first time on compact disc, in beautiful sound, as OSCAR PETTIFORD: LOST TAPES — GERMANY 1958 / 1959, on SWR Music.
American expatriates Lucky Thompson (on soprano sax for a gorgeous, melancholy SOPHISTICATED LADY) and Kenny Clarke (drums on the final five performances of the disc) are the “stars,” but Zoller stands out as a beautifully measured guitarist.
And although some US critics of the time might have been condescending to European players, this disc shows their equal mastery. Trumpeter Dusko Goykovich duets with Oscar on the opening BUT NOT FOR ME. Other notable players here are clarinetist Rolf Kuhn; light-toned tenorist Hans Koller; baritone saxophonists Helmut Brandt, Helmut Reinhardt, Johnny Feigl; altoist Rudi Feigl; guitarist Hans Hammerschmid; drummers Jimmy Pratt and Hartwig Bartz. The songs are a mix of standards and originals: BUT NOT FOR ME / SOPHISTICATED LADY / A SMOOTH ONE / O.P. (Hans Koller) / MINOR PLUS A MAJOR (Kuhn) / POOR BUTTERFLY / ANUSIA (Hans Koller) / MY LITTLE CELLO (Pettiford) / THE NEARNESS OF YOU / YESTERDAYS / ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE / BLUES IN THE CLOSET (Pettiford) / BIG HASSLE (Hammerschmidt) / ATLANTIC (Helmut Brandt) / ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE / BLUES IN THE CLOSET — the last two are live performances.
And just because it’s accessible and stirring, here is that film clip — from an otherwise undistinguished 1945 murder mystery, THE CRIMSON CANARY, which features Hawk, Pettiford, Howard McGhee, trumpet; Sir Charles Thompson, piano; Denzil Best, on a fast SWEET GEORGIA BROWN line by Hawkins called HOLLYWOOD STAMPEDE:
Ultimately, I think if you’d asked Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, or any number of jazz luminaries, “What about this O.P. fellow? Should I listen to him?” the answer would have been a very strong affirmative. So let us do just that. These tapes were lost, but have been found: spread the word about Oscar. Remind those who have forgotten; introduce those who never knew. “Learn it to the younguns!” as the youthful protagonist of Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN hears at the start of that novel.
I’d known the work of swing cellist Mike Karoub from his appearance on Jon-Erik Kellso’s CD, CHAPTER TWO, so I was very pleased to encounter this gently swinging duet performance of SWEET GEORGIA BROWN by Mike and guitarist Rob Bourassa — delightfully swinging!
Even for people like myself who have some nervous about the proliferation of “Hot Club of _____ ” groups, this is The Right Stuff! Rob has his own YouTube channel — “robourassaguitarist” — with more enjoyable jazz.
If you had asked me, a few months ago, to tell you all I knew about Patrick O’Leary, I would have said, “Wonderful bass player — a real melodic sensibility and strong time — and an extraordinary jazz cellist. Witty fellow, a good sort.” And I would have directed you to some of the videos I’ve taken at The Ear Inn for proof. But that estimate, which remains true, would have sold Mr. O’Leary short as a classical composer and arranger, someone able to integrate jazz improvisation and folk material into classical forms (vocal as well as instrumental) doing justice to all the music.
I wouldn’t make such claims without musical evidence. Here is the third section from Pat’s MONTENEGRO JAZZ SUITE, his choral / symphonic improvisations on the Monenegrin folk song “Slavjo Poje,” which translates appropriately as “Nightingale.”
Pat explains, “Maja Popovich asked me to write a suite of pieces based on Montenegrin folk music for choir, string ensemble, and jazz quartet. Stjepko Gut played the trumpet and flugelhorn, Ehud Asherie, piano; Tom Melito, drums, and I played bass and arranged. Zoja Durovic conducted the choir and Irena Vukovic conducted the string ensemble. This concert was filmed at The Kic Center in Podgorica, Montenegro on June 21, 2009. Everyone did a great job considering the amount of time allowed for rehearsal(s).”
For my readers who have a classical background, see if the string writing isn’t reminiscent of Vaughan Williams or perhaps Barber’s ADAGIO FOR STRINGS — and for jazz listeners who might be less patient, wait a bit and your patience will be rewarded by marvelous playing from the quartet. Bravo!
And other sections of the MONTENEGRO JAZZ SUITE are accessible on YouTube: visit Pat’s channel, “usenewsyuleooze,” a name that will make much more sense when muttered aloud.