Tag Archives: jazz duets

DON EWELL and DICK WELLSTOOD, 1981

Yes, Ewell had had a stroke some years earlier.  Neither of the pianos at the Manassas Jazz Festival was worthy of its artist.  But this video clip (thanks so much to my fellow YouTube poster — who also gave us the priceless clip of Vic Dickenson singing and playing ONE HOUR) is a wonderful rediscovery.  And Claude Hopkins’ band theme, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, always seems to inspire.  Ewell and Wellstood — they would do anything for us.  My rating on YouTube?  “Awesome.” 

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CYNTHIA SAYER at the KNICKERBOCKER! (June 12-13, 2009)

Cynthia SayerCynthia Sayer, the banjo virtuoso, engaging singer and pianist, has been busy of late working on a variety of projects.  And that busy-ness has meant that she hasn’t taken as many gigs in New York City as she might . . . but that is about to be rectified in a most swinging way. 

Cynthia and the delightful pianist Mark Shane — justly celebrated in this blog — will be performing on June 12 and 13 (Friday and Saturday) at the Knickerbocker Bar and Grill, 33 University Place at Ninth Street.  (212.228.8490, or www.knickerbockerbarandgrill.com., you choose.)  The practical details?  The cover charge is modest (the last time Cynthia performed there, it was $5.)  The music will begin at 9:45. 

Cynthia says:

“Surprise guest players” have often stopped by to sit in for some tunes in the past.  Anything is possible!  

Knickerbocker gigs offer me the very rare opportunity to play duos with pianists.  I know that the whole banjo/piano duo concept is an old cliche so maybe it seems sort of funny how unusual it is for me, but it’s true. (Please visit my January 2009 YouTube clips from Smalls to get an idea of a typical line-up for me.)  I’m enjoying the change, not to mention working with various wonderful pianists.  My repertoire will include popular ’20s – ’40s tunes and some lesser known gems that I like, plus of course some features from Mark.  Some tunes I like are, of course,  “Them There Eyes,” “You Always Hurt The One You Love,” “Over The Rainbow,” “What’ll I Do,”  “Doin’ The New Low Down,” “The Glory Of Love,, “There Aint No Sweet Man (That’s Worth the Salt Of My Tears),”  “El  Choclo,” “Shakin’ The Blues Away,”  and “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Love.”

I don’t see why anyone should need more information before marking their calendars, but if anyone does, why not visit Cynthia’s website, www.cynthiasayer.com.  (Incidentally, the portrait comes from the cover of her newest CD, ATTRACTIONS, which lives up to its name.)  This gig is something to look forward to!

“DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM”

Last night (Thursday, February 12) was perilously windy, but Flip and I bundled up and made it downtown to Smalls to hear an hour of duets between Jon-Erik Kellso and Ehud Asherie.

The story goes that Duke Ellington was in a cab one night in the early Thirties with the newspaperman (and occasional songwriter) Nick Kenny.  The following dialogue (hardly Chekhov) ensued:

Kenny: “Where do you want to go, Duke?”

Ellington: “Oh, just drop me off in Harlem.”

( Scholars dispute whether it was IN or AT, but I leave that to those who argue about ON line or IN line.)

Jon-Erik and Ehud take this pretty song at one of many right tempos — a medium glide.  And, luckily, Jon-Erik was in the mood to unleash his Inner Puppy, a friendly mixed-breed that would characteristically lick your face but most often has a whole repertoire of growls to offer.  Listen to the vocalizing he gets here, and to Ehud’s mobile, listening playing.  Lovely, evocative music!

SMALL CLUB, BIG JAZZ

Flip and I went to see Ehud Asherie last night at Smalls, where his duet partner was the Russian-born altoist Dmitry Baevsky, someone you should know.  I’ve heard Dmitry shining through Joe Cohn’s RESTLESS (Arbors), but was even more impressed by him in person.  The interplay between the two musicians — they’re long-term friends — should surprise no one who’s been reading this blog.  Ehud, modest about his own playing, listens deeply, thoughtfully commenting, answering, anticipating, smoothing the way.

Here’s the duo on Bud Powell’s STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.

Dmitry is a special pleasure.  Many alto players born in the last sixty or so years have fallen under the great avian enchantment of Charlie Parker.  Even if they don’t adopt his familiar repertoire, they work towards his brilliant tone and great facility — which translates into rapid flurries of notes aimed at the listener.  More recent altoists, perhaps falling under Coltrane’s and Ornette’s spells, have chosen to break out of bebop’s conventions — often with a harsh tone, a nearly aggressive approach to their material.

Dmitry is well aware of what has taken place in jazz, and he’s no reactionary, tied to ancient points of view.  But he loves the sound of his instrument, and he enjoys its singing possibilities without falling into sticky-sweetness.  In his playing, I hear the bounce of Pete Brown in some turns of phrase, the pensive quality of a Paul Desmond — but mostly I hear Dmitry, which is a wonderful thing indeed.  That tone!

And both of these players know how to convey deep feeling through their instruments.  Here they approach POOR BUTTERFLY with tenderness, even reverence.

Smalls is reminiscent of someone’s suburban basement or “rec room” in the Seventies — but the casual intimacy of the place inspires the musicians who play there, as you can hear.  I couldn’t stay on for long after Ehud’s duet set, but he was followed by Tardo Hammer, then by Sacha Perry and Ari Roland — a cornucopia of world-class jazz for a $20 cover.