Tag Archives: jazz party

SHOOT FIRST. ASK QUESTIONS LATER.

Zoot, riding the range.

The splendid people at jgautographs (on eBay) have reached into the apparently bottomless treasure chest and come up with an assortment of photographs for sale.  The auction has a time limit, so don’t (as we say) dither.

Bill, Kenny, and Bob, also riding the range, although dressed like city slickers.

Question: what do Bobby Hackett, George Barnes, Flip Phillips, Bob Wilber, Bud Freeman, Connie Jones, Max Kaminsky, Joe Venuti, Lou Stein, Joe Wilder, Zoot Sims, Ralph Sutton, Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Scott Hamilton, Milt Hinton, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Greg Cohen, Dick Hyman, Urbie Green, Trummy Young, Vic Dickenson, Hank Jones, Bob Haggart, Dick Cathcart, Jess Stacy, Joe Bushkin, Dave McKenna, John Best, Franz Jackson, Wild Bill Davison, Butch Miles, Jack Lesberg, Dick Johnson, Bob Havens, and a few others have in common . . . . aside from their musical glories?

Urbie, the one, the only.

Answer: They were all caught in performance by Al White and his roving camera (many of them at Dick Gibson’s Colorado jazz parties) — asked to sign the photos — the ones I’ve seen have all been inscribed to Al — and these 8 x 10″ black and white beauties are now being offered at the site above.

In 2000, Al and Ralph Sutton’s biographer James D. Schacter created a large-format book, JAZZ PARTY, with over a hundred of these inscribed photographs, but that book is now out of print, although copies can be found.

Al started life as an amateur drummer and jazz fan, then put on concerts and parties in Arkansas . . . . and at some point began to specialize in candid shots of the musicians he admired.

The noble Dick Cathcart.

The photographs offered on eBay have, for me, a special resonance.  For a moment in time, Bobby or Urbie had to touch this piece of paper to sign it, so they are beautiful artifacts or relics or what you will.

I’ve been running out of wall space for some time now (and it would be disrespectful as well as damp to start hanging photographs in the bathroom) so the field is clear for you to visually admire and place bids, even though I might be tempted in two days and twenty-something hours.

I thought you might like some jazz-party-jazz, so here is the priceless 1977 color film (102 minutes) of the Dick Gibson party, “The Great Rocky Mountain Jazz Party,” featuring everyone:

May your happiness increase!

THANK YOU, NANCY AND KATHY!

You might not think it from the picture, but two of these women have done the music we love an irreplaceable service, and not just once.

From the left, they are Kathleen Hancock, Abbey Griffith, and Nancy Hancock Griffith: grandmother, granddaughter, and mother.

What have they got to do with JAZZ LIVES, and with jazz?  Joe Boughton, hallowed and irascible, began a series of weekend jazz parties in the Eighties, which I encountered late in their existence, in 2004, as “Jazz at Chautauqua.” I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about these yearly ecstasies of music, friendship, coffee, Scotch, and music.  When Joe’s health began to fail, Nancy gently offered her assistance, both musical and practical — and she was quickly expert and invaluable in all things, from settling disputes about seating or who wouldn’t play with whom, and Chautuqua went on — even improved — after Joe died in 2010.

When the Allegheny Jazz Society moved itself to new quarters in Cleveland, Nancy and her mother, Kathy, took over the running of the Party.  Beautifully, without complaining about the year’s worth of labor such a weekend required.

I won’t go into the economics and logistics of running such a weekend, but even from my semi-outsider’s perspective, the work required had been massive.  And then there’s the financial balancing act.  Thus I was saddened but not entirely startled to read this letter from Nancy and Kathy on the 14th:

Cleveland Classic Jazz Party
All Good Things…

As they say,

— Go out on a high note.

So, after four years trying to make a go of the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, we find we must take this advice. The 2017 Jazz Party was the best one yet, but unfortunately we find we cannot continue. We gave it our best shot.

This was a very hard decision for us, as we both dearly love this genre of music. We had hoped that we would be able to garner much more support in Cleveland for the Jazz Party, but we were never able to get to the break- even point — even with your generous donations. The costs involved in putting together the first-class productions we all appreciate are too high for us to absorb.

We are still trying to think of a way to continue to support traditional jazz in a small way, but for now, we find we need to disband the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party. We will always remember the wonderful friends we made, and the good times (and some of the challenges) we had along the way.

Many thanks to all of your for your support over the years. We hope to see you often at other jazz events and venues.

Warmest regards,

Nancy Griffith and Kathy Hancock

I could write many things here, but what needs to be said can best be said in music — in a performance from the 2015 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, THANKS A MILLION, dedicated to Jon-Erik Kellso, by Duke Heitger, Rossano Sportiello, Scott Robinson, Nicki Parrott, and Ricky Malichi:

Nancy and Kathy gave time, energy, patience, good humor, and money — for years — to make these enterprises flourish.  Without them, my life would have been less gratifying.  Bless them! I send deep gratitude, and I know I am not alone.

May your happiness increase!

HALF A LOAF IS STILL DELICIOUS: NOTES FROM JEFF AND JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY (October 13-15, 2017)

One of the lines attributed to Mae West is “Too much of a good thing . . . can be wonderful.”  I agree with this, but I wonder what Miss West would say about the following report I am turning in, incomplete but enthusiastic, from “Jeff and Joel’s House Party,” with Jeff being pianist / singer / raconteur Barnhart and Joel being banjoist / singer / master of ceremonies Schiavone.  The party took place this preceding weekend at the Elks in Branford, Connecticut.  (I can check my GPS for the exact address on South Montowese Street if you need to know.)

Aside from Jeff and Joel, the participants were Banu Gibson, vocal and stories; Vince Giordano, tuba, bass sax, string bass, vocal; Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor; Noel Kaletsky, clarinet and soprano; Kevin Dorn, drums; Frank Tate, string bass; Fred Vigorito, trumpet; Mike Davis, cornet and vocal; Jim Fryer, trombone, vocal, and trumpet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Tom Boates, trombone and vocal; Tom Palinko, drums.  (There were also many lovely people who didn’t sing or play instruments who made the Party even better than simply having musicians perform in a room.)

If you missed this one, the next JJHP is October 12-14, 2018.  Mark it down.

Some details about the Party, for those unfamiliar.  This one was the eighth, spread over seven years.  (It was the third I’ve attended.)  And there are four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Food and drink are also available — ample varied food and a well-stocked bar, included.  (I thought it a lovely sign on Saturday afternoon that the bartender had nothing to do: people were preferring to listen rather than drink.)

Incidentally, if you are wondering, “Was any of this recorded?” the answer is YES — by my very amiable and technologically-wise friend Eric Devine (getting moral support from the splendid hiker Sherral Devine) — so that there will be some videos of performances the musicians approve.  This, of course, left me free to roam around, purple notebook in hand, like a free person, so I enjoyed the out-of-doors now and again and for once was not in a monogamous relationship with my tripod.

Traditionally, Friday night at the Party has been a concert of sorts — two sets by one band or group.   Last year it was Paris Washboard, and I hear they will be back in 2018.  At this Party, Friday night was given over to Banu Gibson, the one, the only, and a nice small band of Jeff on piano, Vince on everything he’d brought plus vocals, Dan Levinson on reeds, and Tom Palinko on drums.

Banu is not only a wonderful singer and story-teller (more about that later) but an engaging informal scholar, whose introductions are conversational but always erudite.  She’s done her homework and more, and whatever she says comes out of her deep love of the songs, their creators, and their singers.

She’s also devilishly quick-witted, so that even if her ad-libs are familiar bits of material, they never seem defrosted and microwaved.  I arrived on Friday in the middle of a brisk run-through, and in between songs Banu turned to us, half-affectionate, half-naughty schoolmarm, to say, “Now don’t you make any mistakes, you folks who are here early.”  In her third tune, DOIN’ THE UPTOWN LOWDOWN, after Jeff Barnhart had rippled through something delightful, she turned to him and said fervently, “God! How I’ve missed you!”

But her program was far more than comedy.  She gave us dear vibrant performances of songs with verses: Berlin’s PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ, Fats’ I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, Hoagy’s MOON COUNTRY and a quicker-than-plausible THE MONKEY SONG, AIN’T GOT A DIME TO MY NAME from one of the Road pictures, the melancholy YOU LET ME DOWN from her most recent CD (which is a wonder), and a rollicking JUST IN TIME.  For variety’s sake, Vince sang and played IDA and IF I HAD YOU — reminding us of his many talents.  Dan summoned up middle-period BG on clarinet and perhaps Eddie Miller on tenor; Tom Palinko kept to brushes and swung quietly.  In the second set, Banu showed off even more of her versatility, moving easily from LULU’S BACK IN TOWN to the Gershwins’ I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT to the ancient WHERE DID ROBINSON CRUSOE GO (WITH FRIDAY ON SATURDAY NIGHT) which had several choruses of vaudeville joy.  For DO SOMETHING, Banu became Helen Kane, for SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON, she led quite a successful sing-along.  Vince charmed us again with I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU and DINAH — so nice to see him in this setting — and then Banu told at length the sad story of Johnny Mercer, Judy Garland, and Ginger Mercer, leading into a touching rendition of I REMEMBER YOU.  She ended her concert with three more tart offerings: the revenge ballad I WANNA BE AROUND, Porter’s MAKE IT ANOTHER OLD-FASHIONED, PLEASE, and THIS CAN’T BE LOVE.  Everyone looked elated and fulfilled, and we promised to regroup Saturday morning.

Saturday began with what Jeff called THE NEW YORK INVASION — a band made up of musicians based in Manhattan, approximately — Mike Davis, Jim Fryer, Dan Levinson, Dalton Ridenhour, Vince Giordano, and Kevin Dorn — who summoned up Condon’s 1956 with THAT’S A PLENTY and a Teagardenish A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY with a sweet Fryer vocal.

Because the Party is not run on “jazz party” principles — no forty-minute showcases for one group at a time — the next group, dubbed THE SUBURBAN RESPONSE by Jeff, was completely different: Fred Vigorito, Noel Kaletsky, Tom Boates, Jeff himself, Frank Tate, Tom Palinko, Joel Schiavone — and it had a distinctly “New Orleans” cast with a very fast BOGALUSA STRUT and the nice homage to Bix in I’LL BE A FRIEND WITH PLEASURE (although it was more “Condon” out of BIXIELAND than the 1930 Victor notion).

Banu returned with Mike, Dan, Kevin, Vince, and Jeff for her ebullient I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM (which should be her official theme song), YOUR MOTHER’S SON-IN-LAW with the rarely-heard verse, and FEELIN’ HIGH AND HAPPY.  In the interests of full disclosure, she told us that it was too early to make jokes about that title.

My notes are slightly congested from this point, since I began to actually have conversations with people while standing outside and hearing the music.  I recall Dalton’s beautiful solo verse to I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING, and later Saturday he performed a gorgeous LOVE WILL FIND A WAY — with Jeff watching him intently — and a shake-the-building reading of James P.’s JINGLES.

Dan Levinson assembled his Original Dixieland Jazz Band centennial edition, Mike, Jim, Kevin, Jeff, and himself, and they made the Victors come alive — LIVERY STABLE BLUES and PALESTEENA.

Joel had a feature on a slow-drag LAST NIGHT ON THE BACK PORCH, which moved some of the audience to get misty over shared Your Father’s Mustache experiences.

Banu and Dalton did some touching duets, but their sweet quality is mostly obliterated in my recollection by Banu’s story of being a young performer working with a Your Father’s Mustache bill — and on that bill was a man whose act was called HAM AND EGGS because it featured a piglet and a chicken.  The piece de resistance, Banu told us, was his feature on TIGER RAG, where he made the piglet squeal in place of the tiger roaring.  If you need more details, you should ask Banu herself: her version was politely graphic, but I wasn’t the only man wincing.

A band devoted to “West Coast style,” which means to this crowd Lu Watters rather than Gerry Mulligan, assembled: Fred, Jeff, Jim Fryer on second trumpet, superbly, Vince, Noel, Tom Boates, Kevin, Joel, for Maceo Pinkard’s STORYVILLE BLUES and a lengthy romp on CANAL STREET BLUES, featuring two-trumpet fisticuffs, as requested by Jeff.  Later, a two-trombone conversation on ROSETTA, Noel and Dan on I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY, and a very sweet I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE for two trumpets, with young Mike getting in some lyrical Butterfieldiana.

Banu offered both story and song of BLUE SKIES, Hoagy’s MEMPHIS IN JUNE, and the Gershwins’ NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT; Joel followed with an extended BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME.

Levinson’s ODJB reassembled for Berlin’s I LOST MY HEART IN DIXIELAND and a truly splendid ALICE BLUE GOWN that began as a sedate 3/4 and ended up with a Chicagoan fervor that reminded me so much of the jam sessions at Squirrel Ashcraft’s house in the Thirties.  In between, something even more wonderful.  Dan told the audience about “rag-a-jazz,” and then said that this group was so well versed in the style that he sometimes asked for requests from the audience for jazz material out and away from that era.  Someone called out LIMEHOUSE BLUES, and Dan vetoed that as too familiar, since it was written in 1922, but a more daring listener suggested TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, and they played it splendidly: one could hear its lines and contours powerfully, but its heart was in 1920.  It was a remarkable performance, and in its way, it captured the flexible, imaginative heart of this party.  A few other songs followed, but I was still hearing that TRAIN in my mind.

Various circumstances, all unexpected, made me miss the second half of the Party, which I regret.  But if this doesn’t seem like hugely pleasing musical plenitude, I don’t know what more I can say.  I will share videos when Eric creates and shares them . . . . but they aren’t the real thing.

As I wrote above, the next JJHP is October 12-14, 2018.  Why miss out on the fun?

May your happiness increase!

IT’S CLASSIC! THE CLEVELAND CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 14-17, 2017)

Scott Robinson at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party

Over the last dozen years, I have been to a variety of jazz parties and festivals, all of them deeply rewarding in singular ways.  But I have the longest ties to the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.  Once it was Jazz at Chautauqua, then the Allegheny Jazz Party . . . but even when the name changes and the CCJP finds a new hotel to nest in, its spirited heart remains the same — very reassuring.  I also have a long history of writing about it: the very first post I did (2008) on this blog was called GOIN’ TO CHAUTAUQUA, and I’ve been posting videos from it for perhaps seven years now also.  Here is the post I wrote about the Party in June of this year: it has glorious music from Hal Smith, Frank Tate, and Rossano Sportiello at its center, too.

For those who shrink from Facebook as from Hades, the CCJP’s site is here.

Details?  On cornet / trumpet, Duke Heitger, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm; on trombone, Dan Barrett; on reeds, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson; on guitar / banjo, Howard Alden, Andy Brown; on piano, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, John Di Martino, Rossano Sportiello; on string bass, Joel Forbes, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate; on drums, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith; on vocal, Petra van Nuis; gypsy swing quartet, the Faux Frenchmen; historian (giving a presentation on Ella’s centennial) Phil Atteberry.

On Thursday night, there’s an informal session (for donors and weekend patrons only) that begins at 7:30.  Friday begins with Phil Atteberry’s presentation on Ella (10:30-11:30) and then there are piano solos from 2-4 and an evening set from 5:30-11 and an hour’s set — anything goes — in the “Jazz Club.”  Saturday, music from 10-2 and again from 5:30-11 and 11-12.  Sunday, 9-1:30.  That is a banquet of music and good feeling, and because all the events are in the same hotel, there is no scuttling between one site and another.  Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock are kind and attentive to detail, so things work.  I booked the hotel some months back, and a plane trip more recently.

There’s nothing like being on the scene, digging the sounds, among like-minded and likeable people.  Now, some video evidence.

and

and

As musicians used to say, “Don’t sleep on this one.”  As I say, “It’s only six weeks away, and the CCJP has been known to sell out — not in an aesthetic way, mind you.  See you there!

And — to get darker, but only for two bars.  Money and health and plans get in the way of people attending parties and festivals and gigs, and no one could take those facts lightly.  But I meet so many people who say, nicely, “Oh, I’d love to go there.  Maybe in a couple of years!” and when the couple of years have passed, the “there” is no longer there.  If you can, bestir yourself.  Events — as large as the CCHP or as compact as the guitar trio at the local restaurant on Friday — vanish without your support.  And doing is always better than wishing you had done.  What’s gone is gone.

May your happiness increase!

WE HAD A BALL: THE 2014 ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY

The first thing you need to know is that the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party will take place on September 10-13, 2015, at the Inter-Continental Hotel (near the Cleveland Clinic) in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Michael, that’s a year from now.  Why are you telling us this?”

I had such a good time at the AJP just concluded that I want everyone to get ready for next year: wonderful music in profusion, comfortable surroundings, a quiet and attentive audience paying serious attention to the good sounds, good food, comfortable rooms in a hotel full of very friendly staff.  Ease and friendliness prevailed, thanks to Nancy Griffith and Kathy Hancock, who could run a medium-sized country with gentleness and efficiency.

You’ll notice I put MUSIC at the top of that list.  Here’s a sample — the second performance from the informal session on Thursday night, created by Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens (amazing at 84 or any age), trombone; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Howard Alden, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano:

You can keep up with the AJP here or at website.

The experience at the AJP was special for reasons beyond the splendid music: a rare comfort was in the air and the guests were so easy with one another.  If you have a 2015 calendar, I encourage you to mark the dates on it now.  You won’t be sorry.

More videos to come.

May your happiness increase!   

A BOWL OF CHERRIES?

A true story in parable’s clothing follows.

As a child — aside from my refusal to eat peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches — I was happily omnivorous.  But I had gotten it into my head that I didn’t like ripe cherries.  It could have been my reaction to a pie made with canned filling, but I turned away from the real fruit for years.  Then, someone said, “You don’t like cherries?  Try one of these!”  A rapturous experience.  But while I was savoring the fruit, I thought to myself, “There’s twenty years that you could have been enjoying this experience, and you didn’t, because of some irrational prejudice that stuck.”

This story came to mind yesterday.

Earlier this year I was at a jazz party (its name doesn’t matter) whose stylistic range sat easily between the Wolverines and Buck Clayton — call it “small band swing,” “Condon style,” “Mainstream.”  Delightful in all its variations.

But one of the sets, as an experiment (the musicians got to suggest their own thematic ideas) was a tribute to Bill Evans.  I had only heard Evans’ works for piano trio, for the most part, but when a small group of musicians I admire took the stage, I soon settled into the adventurousness of the music, as improvised lines crossed in midair, echoed, crackled and resounded.  The set was thoroughly uplifting.

Seated near me was someone — a semipro musician whom I’ve come to respect, a perceptive listener, someone devoted to the music in many ways.  Sandy [an invented name] looked at me when the set concluded, with a serious facial expression, and said, “Well?”  I replied, “I thought it was marvelous.”  Sandy frowned.  “Well, I don’t understand it.  And I don’t like it!

Not wanting to seem too didactic, I said quietly, “Forty years ago if I had heard that coming out of the radio, I might have turned away in annoyance.  But if you listen closely to it, all sorts of interesting and lovely things are going on.”  “Well, I don’t like it.”  End of discussion.

Later in that same weekend, someone saw me videoing and we got into conversation.  This person planned to visit Manhattan; I offered to send information about places to go, people to hear.  Again, after expressions of gratitude, there was the same ominous facial expression.  “I don’t like any of that progressive stuff.”  Another door closed somewhere.  I said only, “New York is full of musicians you might not have heard of who play the music you like to hear.”

Do you think if I had told these stern people my story of the cherries they would have seen its relevance?

I am not proposing that all art should be embraced equally.  People who say “I like everything!” always make me wonder if they really understand what they enthusiastically espouse.  But arteriosclerosis of its audience’s sensibilities can kill off an art form.

May your happiness increase.

JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (AND MORE) IS COMING: SEPTEMBER 2012

When I was a child, Autumn came a few weeks after the mingled delights and worries of Back to School.  Later, Autumn meant no more barbecues for another year and the start of leaf-raking, gutter-cleaning and other suburban joys.  But since September 2004, I have a different set of associations — all exceedingly pleasant.

To be accurate, Autumn (or Fall) 2012 begins — in the Northern Hemisphere — on September 22, at 10:49 Eastern Daylight Time.  I looked it up.

The Beloved and I will be celebrating the change of seasons as we have done for the past years at Jazz at Chautauqua, the fifteenth such exaltation.

Chautauqua takes place at the glorious Athenaeum Hotel (built in 1881 and architecturally fascinating) from Thursday, September 20, to Sunday, September 23.  On Thursday, there’s a delightful series of  informal jam sets; Friday afternoon features piano and guitar solos and duets in the parlor, and on Friday evening a cornucopia of wonderful sounds begins and doesn’t stop until Sunday afternoon.  I’ve been filming live performances there for a few years, so you have only to head over to my YouTube channel, “swingyoucats,” and search for “Chautauqua” to have strong evidence of what fun awaits.

Here’s that great Romantic, John Sheridan, playing MY FOOLISH HEART:

This year, the personnel is quite wonderful (although that is frankly no surprise):

Cornet / trumpet: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm; reeds: Harry Allen, Dan Block, Bob Reitmeier, Scott Robinson, Alex Hoffman;  trombone: Dan Barrett, Bob Havens;  guitar/banjo: Howard Alden, Marty Grosz;  piano: Mike Greensill, Keith Ingham, John Sheridan, Rossano Sportiello; bass: Jon Burr, Kerry Lewis, Frank Tate; drums: Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, John Von Ohlen;  vocals: Marty Grosz, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield.  Bands: Alden-Barrett Quintet; Faux Frenchmen (Don Aren, bass; George Cunningham, guitar; Brian Lovely, guitar; Joe Lukasik, clarinet; Paul Patterson, violin);  Photographic exhibit by Duncan P. Schiedt.

Here’s Duke Heitger and friends taking us into the jungle for a hot TIGER RAG:

All these men and women have been personally approved of by JAZZ LIVES and they have received this blogsite’s Seal of Approval.

Jazz at Chautauqua is one of those weekend parties where life is comfortable: guests staying at the hotel have only to come down a flight of stairs (or take the antique elevator) to find their wishes gratified: jazz, copious amounts of food and drink, smiling staff, a basket of apples on the front desk, beautiful views of Lake Chautauqua).  For details of pricing, reservations, and the like, all will be revealed here.

But wait!  There’s more!

For those of you who want to learn from the Masters — a most amiable crew of people whom we admire — before Jazz at Chautauqua begins, there will be the first-ever, turbo-charged, fully synchronous Traditional Jazz Workshop.  You will be able to study with Professors Kilgore, Lewis, Sportiello, Malichi, Heitger, Barrett, Robinson, Alden.  Dan Barrett is the Music Director and I am told that it is all Pass / Fail but no one ever Fails.  The details are on the same page; the Workshop runs from September 16 to the 20th, and students can stay at the hotel.  If my embouchure can be made to improve by early September, I may ask my colleagues to cover my classes, pack my valve oil and my cornet and become a student again.  I know there’s so much to learn!

I can hear some of you saying, “Michael, aren’t you rushing our summers away?  It isn’t even Bastille Day and here you are talking us into September.”  True, true.  But summer’s lease hath too short a date.  And — if not now, when?

I look forward to seeing some of my JAZZ LIVES friends there.  Heaven knows the bandstand will be full of them.

May your happiness increase.

“JAZZ LIVES” GOES TO A PARTY (August 9, 2011)

Marc Caparone and Dawn Lambeth are dear friends and superb musicians.  When they heard that the Beloved and I were coming to California for much of this summer, Marc proposed a jazz evening to be held at their house, and spoke of it in the most flattering way as the “Michael Steinman Jazz Party,” a name that both embarrassed and delighted me.

And it happened on Tuesday, August 9, 2011.  You’ll see some of the results here: great music from good-humored, generous people.

The guests — of a musical sort — were a small group of warmly rewarding musicians.  Besides Marc (cornet and string bass) and Dawn (vocals), there were Dan Barrett (trombone, cornet), John “Butch” Smith (soprano and alto saxophones), Vinnie Armstrong (piano), and Mike Swan (guitar and vocals).  The listeners included the Beloved, Bill and Sandy Gallagher (fine friends and jazz enthusiasts), Cathie Swan (Mike’s wife), Mary Caparone (Marc’s mother), James Arden Caparone (four months but with a great musical future in front of him), and a few others whose names I didn’t get to record (so sorry!).

Jazz musicians take great pleasure in these informal, relaxed happenings: no pressure to play faster, louder, to show off to an already sated crowd.  In such settings, even the most familiar old favorites take on new life, and unusual material blossoms.  We all witnessed easy, graceful, witty, heartfelt improvising on the spot.  And you will, too.

Jazz itself was the guest of honor.  Everyone knew that their efforts were also reaching the larger audience of JAZZ LIVES, so this happy cyber-audience was in attendance as well, although silent.

The first informal group (Dan on cornet, Butch on soprano, Vinnie, Marc on bass, and Mike) led off with Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY, performed at what I think of as Lionel Hampton 1939 tempo:

Then, evoking memories of Jim Goodwin and the Sunset Music Company (more about that later), the band created a buoyant homage to Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, to Duke Ellington, and to Bill Robinson, in DOIN’ THE NEW LOWDOWN:

A request from the Beloved for ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET (in 1945 Goodman Sextet tempo) was both honored and honorable:

Dawn — sweetly full of feeling and casual swing — joined the band for S’WONDERFUL:

After Dan told one of his Ruby Braff stories, Dawn followed up with BLUE MOON, one of her favorites, and you can hear The Boy (that’s James Arden) singing along in his own fashion:

Then the band shifted — Marc put down the string bass and picked up his cornet to lead the way alongside Dan, now on trombone, for ROSETTA:

And a really fascinating exploration of a song that isn’t played much at all (although Billie, Lester, Roy, and the Kansas City Five are back of it), LAUGHING AT LIFE, explored in the best way by Marc, Butch, and Vinnie:

Mike Swan joined this trio for a truly soulful IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN:

Without prelude, Mike launched into the verse of WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS (Dan couldn’t help himself and joined in): what a singer Mike is (and he’s listened hard to Crosby, always a good thing)!

Mike also began MELANCHOLY with Dan — wait for Marc and Vinnie adding their voices to this improvisation:

And the session ended with GEORGIA ON MY MIND, scored for a trio of Dan, Mike, and Vinnie:

The informal session came to a gentle stop there, but the music didn’t go away.  Butch had brought with him a video (taken from Dutch television in 1978) of the Sunset Music Company — a band featuring banjoist Lueder Ohlwein, cornetist Jim Goodwin, trombonist Barrett, reedman Smith, pianist Armstrong.  Since Vinnie and Dan and I had never seen the video, we all retreated to the den and watched it.

It was both moving and hilarious to see the men of 2011 watching their much younger 1978 selves, as well as a moving tribute to those who were no longer with us.  I wish there had been time and space to make a documentary about those men watching themselves play. . . . perhaps it’s possible.

I feel immensely fortunate to be surrounded by such beauty, and to have my name attached to it in even the most tangential way is a deep honor.  I can’t believe that it happened, and I send the most admiring thanks to all concerned.  Even if you weren’t there, unable to witness this creation at close range, I think the generous creativity of these musicians will gratify you as well.  This post is a gift also to those who will see it and couldn’t be there: Arianna, Mary, Melissa, Aunt Ida, Hal, June, Candace, Dave, Jeff, Barbara, Sonny, Clint, David, Maxine, Ricky, Margaret, Ella, Melody . . . the list goes on.  These gigabytes and words are sent with love.

A postscript.  JAZZ LIVES is so engrossed with music that I rarely write about anything else, but if you are ever in the Paso Robles, California, area, I urge you to consider spending a night (as the Beloved and I did) at the accurately-named INN PARADISO, 975 Mojave Lane (805-239-2800: innparadiso@att.net).  We have never stayed at a more satisfying place.  Everything was beautiful and comfortable — from the room to the view to the quiet to the dee-licious breakfast, to the gentle friendly kindnesses of Dawna and Steve — making it a genuinely memorable experience.  I want to go back!  See for yourself at www.innparadiso.com.

SEPT. 16, 1963: ASPEN, COLORADO

I can hear it now.

From the left, that’s Danny Barker, guitar; Ed Hall, clarinet; Wild Bill Davison, cornet; a trombonist I don’t recognize.  And the unseen guiding spirit is one Dick Gibson.

Do you think it’s AS LONG AS I LIVE or perhaps THAT DA DA STRAIN?  It sounds good from where I am in 2011.

THE JAZZ FEAST AT SACRAMENTO (May 2011)

The 2011 Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jubilee has just come out with its detailed schedule . . . and it took me several hours before I could begin this post, because the schedule made my head spin.

In the best way, you understand.

Those of my readers who have never been to a jazz party / festival / jubilee which features simultaneous bands or artists in different venues will not quite empathize, but let me explain.  In some jazz spectaculars, it is simply a matter of coming to the main ballroom or the one stage, sitting down, and hearing music for a long period of time.

Not so at Sacramento, an absolute jazz cornucopia.  The festival begins at 11:45 on Friday, May 27, and rollicks on until late afternoon on Monday, May 30.  And what happens during any given time period is nearly overwhelming.  At 5:30 PM on Monday there are eighteen separate bands playing in eighteen venues.  

“Feast or famine,” my mother used to say.

Here’s the schedule, in case you wish to jump ahead and simply immerse yourself in the mathematically delightful possibilities:

http://www.sacjazz.com/schedule/

The result of such abundance, for me, is a mixture of elation and anxiety.  Elation because, “My goodness, look at all the wonderful things there are arranged here for my delight!”  Anxiety: “What if A and B are playing opposite each other, and I want to see both?  What should I do?  Should I commit to one and miss the other, or should I rudely get up in the middle of A’s set and truck on down to B, hoping there should be a seat?”

We should all have such worries, and I plan on working things out — perhaps with a printed schedule on the flight from New York to California.  And having an absolute surfeit of jazz riches is not the worst fate I will face.

Be sure to check out the schedule: even if you cannot see your way to Sacramento this year, perhaps it will act as an inducement to raid the children’s dental fund or the like . . . ?

ARE YOU FREE NEXT WEEKEND? DIXIELAND MONTEREY 2011: JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY

This is where I’ll be March 4-6, 2011.  I’ll be the fellow with the video camera and tripod, who’s either three hours ahead or behind.  It will straighten itself out, I’m sure.

Tickets are still available:

http://www.dixieland-monterey.com/?page_id=121

And if you need convincing, here’s the schedule of events: I’ve already got conflicts, but that’s a good thing:

http://www.dixieland-monterey.com/?page_id=19

Who could resist?

I’m looking forward to seeing West Coast friends, getting to meet musicians I’ve only seen on YouTube, celebrating players and singers I’ve known for some time . . . and having a good long weekend, busily carpe-ing away. 

CLICK HERE TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE MUSICIANS WE ALL ADMIRE.  ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

CLASSIC BALLADS FROM JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 19, 2010)

The late Joe Boughton, commander-in-chief of Jazz at Chautauqua and other jazz parties, had very definite ideas about what should go on in a jazz performance and what was verboten, taboo, unforgivable.  So it would have caused him some astonishment to be told that he and Norman Granz (whose Jazz at the Philharmonic — with its long themeless blues, drum solos, and explorations of I GOT RHYTHM changes — represented everything he deplored) agreed on anything.  But they both understood something crucial about the performance of jazz ballads before a live audience.

Both men knew, through experience, that having all the musicians on the stand play BODY AND SOUL, for instance, each one taking two choruses, could lead to a certain sameness, not only for the audience but for the players.  Granz got there first with the solution: a ballad medley, where each of the horn players told the rhythm section what their chosen song was, the key (the tempo remained fixed throughout) and played a chorus in leisurely fashion.  You can hear this on Granz’s recordings, live and in the studio.

Joe Boughton didn’t release any of his ballad medleys, but the one that closed off the 2010 Jazz at Chautauqua — the most recent party, and not the last — was particularly moving.  Here are three videos that capture most of it (with some editing for a variety of reasons, none of them musical).

We begin with an extraordinary rhythm section of Rossano Sportiello, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Jon Burr, bass; Pete Siers, drums, and an unusual combination of songs: Rossano tenderly delineates I GOT IT BAD (AND THAT AIN’T GOOD) then turns it over to Marty, who sings and plays the Louis Armstrong – Horace Gerlach IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN:

Randy Reinhart climbs the stage to deliver an absolutely velvety APRIL IN PARIS, a performance that seems untoppable until Dan Barrett convincingly explains how THAT OLD FEELING is still in his heart.  (The crowd properly gives it a small ovation, and Dan looks does a comic double-take of surprise, “Me?”  Yes, you!) 

The very gentlemanly and polite Bob Havens asks PLEASE — doing Bing very proud.  Continuing in this most gallant fashion, clarinetist Bob Reitmeier very quietly asks us in for TEA FOR TWO.  Harry Allen sweetly tells us I WISH YOU LOVE, with Dan Block coming up immediately after!  

The Man of Feeling, Dan Block, assures us (the stakes are getting higher with each delicious cameo) that EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS.  Scott Robinson isn’t a combative, competitive player, but his version of SLEEPY TIME GAL — on the bass sax, which he carries — would be a masterpiece anywhere.  Scott Robinson heroically lifts the bass sax for SLEEPY TIME GAL.  Bobby Gordon tenderly whispers his love for the music in SUGAR; Andy Stein devotes himself to LAURA; Jon Burr emotes lyrically with PRELUDE TO A KISS — which is received with the proper hush (how nice to hear a bass solo receive such quiet attention):

Extraordinarily lovely, with not a hackneyed or overdramatized note in the bunch.  I’d like to make these clips required viewing for jazz musicians and singers of all vintages — to say nothing of those of us who can’t live without beauty.  And not incidentally — the 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua will be held from September 15-18.  If you have already purchased your 2011 calendar . . . .

DON’T MISS JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2010!

There are still seats available for the September 2010 Jazz at Chautuaqua.

That means plenty of hot music, rhythm ballads, lesser-known but beautiful songs from Tin  Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood . . . all performed by a celebrated cast of musicians and singers.   The party begins on Thursday, September 16, 2010, at the Hotel Athenaeum on Lake Chautauqua, New York. 

The heroes and heroines on the bill are Bob Barnard, Randy Reinhart, Joe Wilder, Andy Schumm, Randy Sandke, Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, Bobby Gordon, Harry Allen, Chuck Wilson, Scott Robinson, Bob Reitmeier, Dan Block, Marty Grosz, Gene Bertoncini, Ehud Asherie, John Sheridan, Keith Ingham, Rossano Sportiello, Mike Greensill, Vince Giordano, Jon Burr, Frank Tate, Andy Stein, Pete Siers, Arnie Kinsella, John Von Ohlen, The Faux Frenchmen, Rebecca Kilgore, and Wesla Whitfield.

As always, the music will begin with a series of informal jam sessions on Thursday night, and continue from Friday afternoon to Sunday around 2 PM.  In the past five years, some of my most exultant musical experiences have taken place there, and I am looking forward to more of the same — plus tables of rare sheet music and CDs, books and photographs (the latter department presided over by the venerable Duncan Schiedt) — good food, an open bar, friendly conversation and a chance to meet old friends who love Hot jazz.

I picked this rendition of IF DREAMS COME TRUE from last year’s party in case anyone is still wondering whether the jazz is worth the trip.  Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson, Ehud Asherie, Andy Brown, and Arnie Kinsella show that Jazz at Chautauqua is indeed a place where dreams do come true.

For more information on pricing, weekend lodging, and ticket order procedures, contact the Athenaeum Hotel at 1-800-821-1881 or athenaeum1881@hotmail.com.

OUR FRIEND, JOE BOUGHTON (1934-2010)

Meadville,Pennsylvania.  Joe Allen Boughton, 76, of 283 Jefferson Street, passed away on May 18, 2010, surrounded by loved ones after a courageous battle with cancer at the Crawford County Care Center.
 
Joe was born on May 17th 1934 in Odell, Nebraska.  He was the only son of the late Newell and Elsie Boughton.   His father, a dentist and jazz musician, moved his practice to Wareham, Massachusetts in 1940.   Joe grew up near the seashore of Cape Cod.   He graduated from Wareham High School in 1952 and enrolled at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.   Shortly afterward, he transferred to Northwestern University in Chicago and graduated in 1956 with a degree in History. 
 
Joe married Emily Richardson (of Glendale, Ohio) in 1956 and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the first three of their four children were born.   He worked for Champion Paper until relocating to Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1962.   Joe worked as the Purchasing Manager at Lord Corporation (formerly Hughson Chemicals) for 36 years before retiring in 2000.
 
Joe Boughton’s passion was jazz.   He began developing relationships with musicians from an early age through his father and began booking performances at college.   He formed the Allegheny Jazz Society in 1984 and organized performance s at the Riverside Inn in Cambridge Springs, Conneaut Lake Hotel, Meadville Council on the Arts Gardner Theater, the Academy Theater in Meadville and most recently, the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York.   Joe took special pride in providing opportunities for emerging artists.   Dan Barrett, a renowned trombonist from Costa Mesa, California, said…”I owe Joe Boughton a great deal, as he was one of the first to give me a chance to play with the older jazz greats, shortly after I moved to New York.   He did so much for so many musicians, and is someone who—through his many events and recordings—significantly helped keep the music we all love alive.”  Joe acquired the Jump Record label in the 1980’s and rented studios with many great jazz musicians to produce over 25 CD’s.
 
Joe served locally on the Meadville Council of the Arts, Meadville Medical Board and the local Chamber of Commerce.  He also served as the chairman and on the board of his family camp for many years.   “Treasure Island” is an Ontario family camp where the Boughton family and their relatives gather each summer for family reunions.   He was a consummate planner whether it was a breakfast picnic for the family or a dinner theater for the adults.   He enjoyed gatherings amongst friends and family and organizing events that brought people together.   Joe was a lifelong diabetic.   He lived every day like it was his last and shared this passion for life with his family and close friends.  Let the world be reminded that every minute of every day is precious.
 
Survivors include, Emmy Boughton; four children and spouses, David Boughton and his wife Lori of Meadville; Betsy Horning of Ashland, Virginia; Sarah Holt and her husband, Max of Meadville; and Bill Boughton and his wife Jill of Cincinnati, Ohio.   He had eight grandchildren:  Chloe, Cassidy, Jenny, and Ben Boughton, Peter and Sarah Horning; and Charlie and McAlester Holt.
 
The Boughton family will receive friends at Waid Funeral Home, (581 Chestnut St. Meadville, Pennsylvania) on Friday, May 21 from   2:00-4:00 and 7:00 to 9:00pm. 
 
A private family interment will take place at Greendale Cemetery, West Mead.
 
Memorial contributions may be made to Allegheny Jazz Society or Treasure Island Camp, c/o 401 Byllesby Avenue, Meadville, PA 16335.

I will have more to say about Joe and his legacy — a considerable one — and the joy he took in sharing “his” music so generously.  Right now, I want only to remember the man who was so delighted when the musicians were jamming on a less-played song that he had a hard time containing his delight . . . . and he was most happy when he had people around him to hear what he was hearing. 

WHITLEY BAY 2009: THE CLOSING SET

At the end of the three-day memorable immersion that was the July 2009 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, I was overwhelmed — awash in the contradictory feelings I always have when nearing the end of a jazz party.  I am terriibly sad, because I don’t want the music ever to end, but at the same time I have had just about enough of the rich sensations offered in set after set.  I’m full — as anyone would be after a lavish multi-course meal.  But I know Monday is coming . . .  

So when Bob Cox came and found me sometime on Sunday evening and said, “Where have you been?  You’ve got to come and hear the Swiss Yerba Buena Creole Rice Jazz Band,” I was mildly reluctant, being in full-mode.  I confess I was unfamiliar with their work; it may even be that the sheer length of their name intimidated me. 

Rene Hagmann is playing with them,” Bob said, which was  more than enough reason for me go hear their set.  

I was delighted then — and I am delighted now to be able to share these video clips here.  I don’t know the precise personnel of the band, but the Clerc family is its backbone — father Beat and son Fabien on trumpets, and son Olivier on drums and washboard.  Besides Hagmann and Jean-Francois Bonnel guest stars on reeds, there is also Leonard Muller.  I confess I don’t know the name of the wonderful trombonist (and occasional scat-singer); the pianist is Jean-Pierre Burkhard; the banjoist is Nidi Niederhauser; Jean-Daniel Gisclon plays the tuba.  On their latest CD, Regis Dessimoz is also on trumpet.

Much of the SYBCRJB’s repertoire is drawn from venerable jazz recordings, and the thrill is in hearing a real band play these charts live, with solos that dart in and out of the ones we know by heart.      

To start, here is something for the Bixians — a Goldkette romp on I’M GOING TO MEET MY SWEETIE NOW, with reed virtuoso Bonnel playing trumpet:

Then the band honors I’LL BE A FRIEND WITH PLEASURE, with Bonnel taking an impassioned early-Thirties Hawkins solo instead of the vocal:

What more could I say about DO SOMETHING except to point out that the band certainly lives up to the imperative:

Finally, two maniacally ecstatic performances featuring the tireless Olivier Clerc on washboard.  The first is GOIN’ NUTS, taken from a 1929 record session by an Ellington small group, the Six Jolly Jesters.  Once again I apologize to the trombonist — not only didn’t I know his name, but I couldn’t tear my camera lens away from Olivier to record his memorably uninhibited scatting.  So sorry, Sir, wherever you may be at the moment.  And don’t miss Rene Hagmann on kazoo or air-trombone:

And more!  that ancient pop tune, PADDLIN’ MADELINE (or MADELIN’?)  HOME (with its suggestion that she is in no hurry to have the hedonism come to an end so that she can go back to sedate life, Mother and Father, and dry land):

When this set ended, I, too, was on my feet, applauding.  I went over to the piano to buy the SYBCRJB’s latest CD and to pay homage to young Olivier.  I praised his incredible stamina and said — as innocently as I could — that I hoped his lady love was equally appreciative of it.  It took a moment for that to translate, but my naughtiness made him laugh, which was what I had hoped for.

Down the hall, a jam session in the bar lasted until I went to my room at 2 AM– bravely facing the inevitable, that Monday would come soon enough.  Which it did.  But here’s what I took away with me.

Goodbye, Whitley Bay!  See you next year . . . .  

TheSYBCRJB’s website, not incidentally, is http://www.swissyerba.com.  And they have other videos on YouTube — several recorded by the nimble Elin Smith.

A JAZZ HOLIDAY — CHAUTAUQUA 2008

Jazz at Chautauqua, the cherished baby of Joe Boughton and the Allegheny Jazz Society, whirled around for yet the eleventh year — filling the hours of September 18 – 21 with hot jazz, rare songs, and sweet, swinging lyricism.  It was my fifth visit there, and the Beloved’s first.  We had a wonderful time, tearing ourselves away from the music at regular intervals to walk the Chautauqua grounds, with their elaborately done houses, the leaves already changing, and the glory of Lake Chautauqua.  We took a number of meals on the wide wooden porch of the Athenaeum Hotel, with high-level sitters-in who were carrying plates of food rather than horns and charts: Marty Grosz, Bob Reitmeier, Nina Favara . . . and we got to hang out with Jackie Kellso and Becky Kilgore, Ray Cerino and Carol Baer, David and Maxine Schacker (creators of BEING A BEAR).

By my count, there were about forty sets of music, starting at breakfast and going on until 1:30 AM.  When I was younger and more vigorous in 2004, I devoted myself with a pilgrim’s determination to hearing every last note, with Coffee as my friend and non-prescription ally.  Eventually, I couldn’t sit and listen to even the world’s best jazz for that long.  Everything, including the cerebral cortex, set up a protest.

So here are some highlights, admittedly a subjective list, but, as the narrator of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight says, “To tell all the tale would tax my five wits.”  I was too busy taking notes to take pictures, so readers who want visual stimuli should go to www.mississippirag.com for the October issue, which will be festooned with photographs by John Bitter.

I’ve written about the Thursday festivities (see WITH DISPATCH AND VIGOR) but Friday began to pop with two wonderful sets.  One was led by Jon-Erik Kellso, oddly, his only formal opportunity to do this all weekend, which I find mysterious. because he is an engaging, funny leader.  His set featured lively old songs at the front and back, “Alice Blue Gown” and a Louis-inflected “Some of These Days,” but the middle was even better — Dan Block and Jon-Erik on the 1933 romance “The Day You Came Along,” which managed to summon up both Bing and Hawkins, a neat trick.  Then Bob Havens, exploding all over the horn like a teenager, charged through Harry Warren’s “42nd Street,” a song neglected by jazz players, more’s the pity.  And a delicate, plaintive “Always” featured Block on bass clarinet and Bob Reitmeier on clarinet — not evoking Soprano Summit or the Apex Club Orchestra, but some otherworldly strain, Debussy with a beating Thirties heart.

Becky Kilgore’s set was too short but each song was a neat surprise.  Backed by the endearing Joe Wilder, who moved from bucket mute to his red-and-white metal derby to his fluegelhorn, Dan Barrett being himself, and the ever-thoughtful Rossano Sportiello, Becky offered a happy “Getting Some Fun Out of Life,” whose title seemed more true than ever, “But Not For Me” with a pensive verse, and a sly “Little White Lies,” dedicated to “the politicians.”  In an enlighted administration, our Becky could sing at the Inaugural Ball, but I don’t hold out great hopes for this.

A Saturday-morning Duke Heitger extravaganza was notable for a slow-dance “Whispering” which began with a lovely Ingham introduction, romantic and sweet.  Music to hug by!  Eventually the band decided they had had enough of good behavior and doubled the tempo (Duke turned into Bunny Berigan at points) moving on to a riotous Condon finale with earth-shaking breaks from Arnie Kinsella, unbridled even before lunchtime.

Rather like Becky’s cameo of the previous evening, a Joe Wilder – Rossano Sportiello duet seemed over before we had had time to accustom ourselves to the magical idea of hearing them together with no interference (and with Joe getting to pick the songs he wanted to play, which isn’t always the case).  Tender versions of “Embraceable You” and “Skylark” paved the way for a steadily moving “Idaho,” memorably energetic.  Joe’s glossy tone has become more a speaking utterance in recent years, which is even more personal, and Rossano is my idea of Jazz Ecumenism — getting Fats Waller and Bud Powell to shake hands whenever he plays.

A Marty Grosz set was devoted to the memory of the vocalist, comb-and-tissue paper virtuoso, and bandleader Red McKenzie, about whose music no one is lukewarm.  Typically, we enjoyed a long winding Marty-narrative, full of priceless jazz arcana and some wicked comedy, but it showed off his convincing crooning on “I’ve Got The World On A String.”  The group that backed him — Block, Andy Stein on violin, and the irreplaceable Vince Giordano, seemed the perfect modern embodiment of Joe Venuti’s Blue Four.  About enjoyment, incidentally: Joe Boughton introduced Marty and ended with the ritualistic crypto-command, “Enjoy.”  Marty, who can be as dangerous as a drawer full of scissors, replied, while he was settling in, “I don’t make music to be enjoyed,” as if the concept offended his fastidious self.  But we did, anyway.  So there!

The Wisconsin Bixians (Andy Schumm and Dave Bock) once again got to play with their heroes — Reitmeier, Stein, James Dapogny, Vince, Marty, and Arnie Kinsella — the all-star rhythm team of the weekend or perhaps of this century? — and proved themselves up to the challenge.  Except for a pretty “At Sundown,” they chose Bix-rompers from 1927-8, “Jazz Me Blues,” “Clarinet Marmalade,” and “Somebody Stole My Gal,” making me think of Bix and Miff Mole in some ideal alternate universe, backed by Tesch, Sullivan, Condon, Artie Bernstein, and Krupa.

Keeping the momentum and the mood, Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks showed themselves off as the Jazz Larks.  We”ve all heard the band parse early Pollack, Challis, Isham Jones, Ellington — but this was a leaping ensemble of veteran alumni, fully warmed up.  The Beloved turned to me and murmured, “Vince is in his glory,” and we all were.  Kellso, Block, and Havens sang out — no surprise!

That evening, a lovely set featured Duke Heitger, Havens, Bobby Gordon, the priceless rhythm section mentioned above, and Kellso.  After a casual “Tea for Two,” everyone cut loose (especially Gordon) on “Mahogany Hall Stomp.”  Jon-Erik and Duke are old Midwestern pals, and Kellso was Duke’s model and mentor when neither of them had a driver’s license.  It wasn’t a cutting contest but a friendly reunion, but the two of them gave me chills on “If We Never Meet Again.”  The rafters rang — not with volume, but with passion and a shouting tenderness, which is no oxymoron when you have players who have devoted their lives to it.

Later that night, a set led by Randy Reinhart again showed off two trumpets, as he and Jon exploded into “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” reminding me of Louis’s Decca big band version and a short passage from a film about Dick Gibson’s jazz parties where Ruby Braff and Clark Terry duetted on the sidewalk while fireworks went off around them.  Another touching Reitmeier-Block duet (clarinet and bass-clarinet) on “I Got It Bad” made me wish that every set had had two ballad performances.  (At parties, musicians get excited about playing with their friends, so tempos and volume sometimes rise.)

Sunday morning — at a pre-consciousness hour for most musicians — began with a solo set by Dapogny.  I haven’t said much about him in this post, but I was tremendously impressed with him as an ensemble pianist as well as a soloist.  I had gotten happily used to the idea of his stomping propulsion at previous Chautauquas, his forceful accuracy (think Sullivan, Hines, Fats) but time and again he surprised us all by going into unexpected harmonic corners, playing phrases that were the very opposite of formulas.  And how he swung the bands he was in!

Marty Grosz’s Sunday set honored mid-Thirties Red Allen.  In fairness, the musicians were sight-reading the charts, so there was an uncertain passage here and there . . . but who among us would do better?  I was nearly stunned by the band’s vehement “Jamaica Shout,” which I would assume refers to the Queens neighborhood rather than the Caribbean, but this may be mere speculation.

Finally, a marvelous quartet took the stand — Bob Wilber, his tone still glossy, his rhythmic intensity still intact at eighty, Jon-Erik, blinking slightly in the unaccustomed daylight, Marty and Vince — the best people to summon up the ferocious glories of the 1940 Bechet-Spanier Big Four recordings for the Hot Record Society.  (When I visited guitarist Craig Ventresco, he had the original 12″ 78s, which seemed holy relics — and they still sounded fine on his three-speed phonograph!)  A peerless quartet, deep in contrapuntal hot ensembles and soaring solos.

With regret, the Beloved and I left before it was all over to begin the day-long drive back to New York City, both exhausted and thrilled by the music.

The rewarding thing about Jazz at Chautauqua is that I began to write this post with the idea of including only a few highlights — but there were so many asterisks and exclamation points in my notebook that the idea of a “few” quickly became impossible.  For every set I mentioned, for every solo, there were two or three more of equal quality — a true jazz holiday!  The music rings in my ears as I sit at the keyboard.

ANOTHER SUTTON SPECTACULAR

The jazz party — an institution that’s more than forty years old — sometimes appears to be struggling under the double burdens of a shrinking audience and rising costs. But some noble warriors take these things in their stride. One of them is our friend Sunnie Sutton, who began a rewarding series of parties with her husband Ralph — that’s the Ralph Sutton — and continued them after his death. Her Denver parties are joyous, well-run affairs: everyone has a good time, musicians and guests alike, all of them old friends.

Sunnie’s 2008 spectacular is the Sutton PianoRama, and with the musicians she has lined up, it will live up to its promise: pianists Dick Hyman, Rossano Sportiello, Louis Mazetier, and Shelley Berg; rhythm men of great renown Bucky Pizzarelli, Jay Leonhart, Chuck Berghoffer, Frank Capp, and the inimitable Jake Hanna. Add a quartet of illustrious horn players — Warren Vache, John Allred, Ken Peplowski, and Houston Person — who needs more? The pianos will be well-tuned and Denver is lovely in October.

This will all happen on Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and 19, at the Marriott City Center. Only 200 seats are available, and the cost is a neat $200 per person. For hotel reservations, call 303-297-1300 ext. 6617, and ask for Joanne: mention the party and get a special room rate of $129 a night. Send your checks for the party to “Sutton’s Rocky Mountain Jazz Party” at P.O. Box 1684, Bailey, CO 80421, or call 303-838-4240 for more good news.