Tag Archives: jazz video

HEARING IS BELIEVING: GORDON AU / TAMAR KORN (Dec. 16, 2010)

If you close your eyes, something interesting might happen.  Listen deeply. 

Last Thursday, I made a pilgrimage to Williamsburgh in Brooklyn, New York, and eventually arrived at RADEGAST, a beer garden on the corner of Berry and North Third Streets.  The Grand Street Stompers were playing: they are directed by trumpeter Gordon Au (always a good thing) and this edition was all-star: Emily Asher, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Nick Russo, guitar / banjo; Rob Adkins, bass.  And Tamar Korn sang.

But.

Before anyone embarks on the first video, the viewers I call the Corrections Officers should know that Radegast is the darkest club I have ever been in.  Cozy but Stygian.  My video camera was not entirely happy.  So the result is nocturnal, visually. 

Also, the dance floor in front of me was properly filled with dancers: once your eyes get accustomed to the whirling shadows you can discern the most graceful pair, in harmony with each other and the music.

Because of the season, Gordon chose to play I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS.  Leaving aside the psychological associations: adultery, roleplay with costumes, the primal scene, love-for-sale . . . it’s a Thirties tune that I can hear in my head as a Teddy Wilson Brunswick . . . or what would Fats have done with this?  This version has some of the rocking motion of a Goodman Sextet circa 1941, thanks to Nick and Dennis; also echoes of a Fifties date for, say, Ruby Braff and Benny Morton, courtesy of Gordon, Emily, and Rob:

The same flavors continue into I’M CONFESSIN’ — with the addition of the remarkable Tamar Korn, singing from her heart while standing to the left of Rob’s bass.  Catch the whimsical contrast between Tamar’s air-trajectories and Gordon’s muted answers: is he our modern Hot Lips Page?  And Emily Asher’s tone gets bigger, broader, and more lovely every time I hear her:

With music like this, who couldn’t weather the storm?  Homage to Irving Berlin and more of that Thirties combination of sweet-tart vocals and hot playing, I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM.  I’ve always admired Tamar as a singer who doesn’t cling to safe routines, and her reach continues to expand into space:

I knew the next performance was Serious Business when someone turned on the light above the music stand.  I didn’t immediately recognize the pretty melody Dennis was delicately playing, but I knew I had heard it once.  Then Gordon braved the way into . . . . THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which came back to me from 1962.  As the performance progressed and everyone relaxed (Rodgers’ melody takes a few unexpected turns), I had a different aural epiphany. 

Joe Glaser, Louis Armstrong’s manager, was obsessed with the quest for more popular hits for Louis.  Sometimes this worked: consider MACK THE KNIFE and HELLO, DOLLY!  But Joe missed this one!  I can hear an imagined All-Stars version of this song (with banjo) that would have been extraordinary.  And Gordon might have felt it too, as he launched into his solo with a passage that suggests Louis — hinting at the bluesy flourishes of the Hot Seven and the cosmic scope of the 1932 Victor sides.  Then Nick’s chimes before settling into a very non-von Trapp Family (say that three times) segment backed by Rob’s Hintonian bass.  Hear and see for yourself:

Tamar returned, for one of her classics — LOVER, COME BACK TO ME — that would have pleased Sigmund Romberg, especially if he’d had some of the delicious German beer that Radegast offers all and sundry.  And she swings out on invisible trumpet (meeting Gordon’s!) in her second outing. 

But I have to apologize to the gifted tenor saxophonist who appeared to the right and began to swing out.  Who are you, kind Sir?  Are you the ghost of Dick Wilson?

Finally, in honor of the season and of Elvis, Tamar creates a mourning rockabilly interlude in BLUE CHRISTMAS, with Nick going a-sliding along.  (I can hear Louis and Trummy Young doing this one, too.  Where was Joe Glaser?):

I hope the only thing of yours that’s blue this holiday season is the sky.  Or socks, lingerie, or a fleece sweatshirt!

JUST SAY YES: SCOTT ROBINSON and DAN BLOCK (Jazz at Chautauqua 2010)

Scott Robinson and Dan Block (reeds) romp through Cole Porter’s affirmation, IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME, at the 2010 Jazz at Chautauqua party, with the nimble unflagging aid of Rossano Sportiello, Frank Tate, and Pete Siers.  Never has “Yes!” been said so emphatically — not since Joyce’s Molly Bloom, of course:

STANDARD TIME: NEAL MINER AND FRIENDS

Neal Miner is not only a fine bassist and composer; he’s also a remarkable jazz videographer who gets splendid results without a truckload of equipment.  His YouTube channel is “gutstringrecords,” and I’ve taken two of his recent videos to share (and applaud) here.

The first is a nimble, sustained reading of the Schertzinger-Mercer I REMEMBER YOU for piano trio: Neal, Michael Kanan on piano, Rick Montalbano on drums:

Aside from the music itself, which is probing without losing the essential rhapsodic quality of the song, I would point out how neatly Neal has solved the problem of making a jazz video visually interesting without having fidgety cutting every few seconds. 

And here’s CLOSE YOUR EYES by Bernice Petkere, explored by the Pacific Jazz Quartet — Sasha Dobson on the evocative vocal, Neal, Rob Sudduth on tenor saxophone, and Dred Scott on drums:

Satisfying and intriguing — hats off to Neal and friends!

THE HOT ANTIC JAZZ BAND at WHITLEY BAY (July 9, 2010)

This one’s for Nancie Beaven, one of this blog’s most ardent readers, currently ensconced in Connecticut.  Nancie is a  great admirer of the Hot Antic Jazz Band and of its cornetist, Michel Bastide.  Several times during the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, I had ample opportunity to see why. 

The HAJB also sported Bernard Antherieu, clarinet; Philippe Raspail, saxophone; Martin Seck, piano; Christian Lefevre, brass bass; Philippe Guignier, banjo.  (The regular banjoist is Jean-Pierre Dubois but that week-end was attending his daughter’s wedding.  I apologize to all the musicians I omitted, mis-identified, or mis-named: it took the help of several people (Bill Lowden and JC from Les Rois de Fox-Trot) to get me this close to accuracy.  

A lovely melody by a composer new to me, called HOW STRANGE:  

SUNDAY, in honor of Bix, the Jean Goldkette band, and even the Keller Sisters and (their brother) Lynch:

CHICAGO RHYTHM, suggesting not only a time and place, but also Jimmie Noone in his heyday:

Finally, an enthusiastic solo piano reading of THE PEARLS, by “Jelly Roll Martin”:

Some band!

NEW OLD SONGS (by ANDY AND HIS GANG, March 2010)

Although it’s always a pleasure to hear JAZZ ME BLUES, for instance, listeners like to be surprised as well — not by mere novelty (playing the theme from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE in hot style, for instance) but by songs in the idiom that aren’t overly familiar.  Here are two such performances from the 2010 Tribute to Bix, played by Andy Schumm and his Gang (Andy, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, reeds / vocal; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Vince Giordano, bass sax, tuba, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums). 

The first is WHAT A DAY, taken from a post-Bix session done by Frank Trumbauer:

It’s not the most inventive song — the three-note motif gets repeated cheerfully, almost without letup, but it bounces along.

The second, DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM, is more obscure (Abel Baer-Mabel Wayne) and has a certain oblique similarity to GOOD LITTLE, BAD LITTLE YOU — but it, too, gets a jaunty performance.  In this version, Vince got to take a much-needed breather and his place was taken by Mike Walbridge on tuba.  And Andy pounces on the melody from out of the ensemble in fine Goldkette style!

We have the intrepid Flemming Thorbye to thank for these videos: from the back of the hall, but steady and in clear sound — all that anyone could want and more!

MARTY GROSZ and the HOT WINDS (Sept. 2007)

Is it my fault that I think Marty Grosz is a genius?  A hot balladeer and monument of chordal acoustic playing, an unreconstructed vaudevillian, satirist, and jokester, a jazz scholar . . . a great arranger (on paper and on the stand) and bandleader.  A combination of Eddie Condon, Carl Kress, Fats Waller, and Red McKenzie. 

I remember sitting in the front at Joe Boughton’s Jazz at Chautauqua early on a Sunday morning — the end of the long and fulfilling jazz weekend of September 2007.  Prior to this I had contented myself with illicit audio recordings . . . but I had my then fairly-new digital camera on hand.  Marty and his group were coming on to perform a brief tribute to Red McKenzie, another one of my heroes — for his sentimental singing and hot comb playing.  And I thought, “I could make movies with this, couldn’t I?” and aimed my camera at the musicians.  The visual fidelity is gummy at best, but the players are visible.  And what players!  That’s Scott Robinson and Dan Block in the front line; rocking James Dapogny at the piano; multi-talented and apparently inexhaustible Vince Giordano holding it all together. 

They rock, don’t they?

Here’s ARKANSAS BLUES — in memory of McKenzie’s hit record with the Mound City Blue Blowers.  It’s another I’m-going-back-to-that-Dixie-cabin-of-mine songs, but the antropologists and cultural historians will have to be quiet: I’m having too much fun listening.

And (it was Sunday, so perhaps a hint of what was to come in twelve or fourteen hours?) FROM MONDAY ON, which summons up not only McKenzie but Condon and Lang, Venuti, Bix and Bing:

Marty gives us something no one else has mastered — he’s irreplaceable.

RINGSIDE AT KEVIN’S: Feb. 5, 2010

My readers will catch the reference in the title to one of the great recordings of the early LP era (some might say one of the great recordings of all time) RINGSIDE AT CONDON’S, a collection of live performances by Eddie Condon’s 1951-52 band at the club named for him.  The music is precise but utterly spirited, a collection of great idiosyncratic soloists forming a cohesive ensemble unit.

Drummer Kevin Dorn doesn’t have his own club, and he probably wouldn’t want one — but the music he and his band, THE BIG 72, played last night at The Garage (Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village, New York City) evoked the Condon band of the Fifties in the best way.  Not as a repertory exercise (although listeners with long memories might hear a respectful nod to a famous recording here or there during the set) but as a Condon-inspired exercise: hire the best players, let them have space to blow on good, sometimes less-heard songs, and enjoy the jazz.

The crowd did.  (As an aside, I have to say that The Garage has the most mobile — or perhaps fidgety? — audience I’ve ever seen in a club: an apparently steady stream of people who had come in for a drink, a chat, or one song, entering and leaving.  Come and meet / those tramping feet — about two miles south of Forty-Second Street).  Hear a woman in the audience, who had been dancing wildly to the music, shout out “We love you!” before the band sails into HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?

And that band.  Kevin, summoning up the driving energy of Cliff Leeman, Buzzy Drootin, George Wettling — while listening to and supporting the band, varying his sound as the music demands.  Bassist Kelly Friesen, a rhythmic rock, whether walking the chords, slapping, or even bowing the bass — he cut through the chatter and lifted everyone up.  Jesse Gelber at the piano, talking to it as a man inspired, grinning enthusiastically at the keyboard.  Trumpeter and sometime vocalist Simon Wettenhall, fervent and animated but subtle, turning curves like a race-car driver.  Michael Hashim, mixing a gentle Hodges-approach with a violent rhythm-and-blues side, always enjoying himself.  And my hero of the night, clarinetist Pete Martinez, who was in full flower with his patented version of Ed Hall’s inspired rasp in his tone.  And, in the fashion of the great informal aggregations of jazz, each of them is a particularly stubborn (although mild-mannered in person) individualist who keeps his identity safe while playing for the glory of the ensemble.  What a band they are!

People in the know are accustomed to seeing and hearing this aggregation under the heading of the TRADITIONAL JAZZ COLLECTIVE.  Kevin and colleagues have taken on a new name, somewhat mysterious — THE BIG 72.  To find out what it means, you’ll have to ask Kevin at a gig. 

Here they are on Friday, February 5. 2010:

Paying homage to Bix Beiderbecke (and to Condon’s BIXIELAND sessions) they began with a quick I’LL BE A FRIEND WITH PLEASURE, capped by Simon’s derby-muted improvisation on Bix’s recorded solo:

Then, perhaps in tribute to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, wherever, who formed the mass of the audience, they launched into a rocking FIDGETY FEET:

The aforementioned question (sometimes unanswerable) that reminded me of JAMMIN’ AT CONDON’S: HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?:

Another Bix-inspired homage, although he never knew the song, composed later by Hoagy Carmichael: SKYLARK, with a rough-toned but convincing vocal by Simon:

And finally, in honor of Mr. Hall and perhaps Oran “Hot Lips” Page, here’s THE SHEIK OF ARABY, complete with verse:

I had a wonderful time listening to this band.  And — don’t keep it a secret — they have a steady gig at the Garage, late night sessions two Fridays every month.  You should see what they’re like live: I plan to!

GROOVIN’ AT THE EAR INN (January 31, 2010)

That title isn’t to be taken lightly, for several times last night when The Ear Regulars (with guests) got together to play, they hit a real groove.  Not too slow, not too fast.  But I thought of the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet, or the Buck Clayton Jam Sessions: musicians who know deep down what it means to choose the right tempo for the right song, to patiently, humorously let things build, to listen to each other.  The result was that often the room was both hushed and exuberant.  It was annoyingly cold outside in New York City last night, but The Ear Inn was spiritually warm — the kind of place I hated to leave even when the music was over.

Here are four performances from the evening’s jazz festivities.  The Ear Regulars (regular fellows all) were particularly lyrical: Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Dan Block, and Pat O’Leary.  Eloquent, concise storytellers all — people who know what it is to sing on their instruments.

You might notice an occasional blurry passage (visually, not audibly): either my camcorder was overwhelmed by emotion or it needs an appointment with the autofocus doctor.  But the music comes through vibrantly, which pleases me greatly.

This post starts with a song that people know (through Louis, Jack, Billie, and others) — a Harold Arlen cri de coeur — but few people play: I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES:

Then, a song that’s even more obscure in this century — perhaps because its period “ethnic” lyrics produce justifiable discomfort (although I miss Louis and Lips’ versions): CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN:

The Ear Regulars expanded nicely: Conal Fowkes took over the string bass while Pat O’Leary treated us to his exceptional jazz cello playing.  An extraordinary string section!  Watch their hands, please. 

Anat Cohen came in and played her part while seated on a barstool.  Andy Farber (sounding sweetly like Hilton Jefferson) added his alto sax.  And they embarked on a sweetly hot I FOUND A NEW BABY (in two parts):

They were romping, although not accelerating:

Clarinetist Frank Perowsky joined them for the final ensemble — a lengthy, swaying version of the blues line RED TOP (in Db, or “dog flat”) that wasn’t a moment too long, although it ran sixteen minutes.  I was in the middle of a four-piece reed section: a clarinet to my right (Anat), one to my left (Frank), two saxes in front of me — rather like living in a Fifties demonstration-of-stereo record.  And, there was more from that world-class downtown unbuttoned string section!

The second part:

I haven’t written much about the music.  As Charlie Parker told Earl Wilson, it speaks louder than words.  The music I heard last night at The Ear Inn transcended words: it wasn’t a matter of volume.

It was an honor to be there, and that’s no stage joke.  Thanks to everyone — and to Phillup de Bucket, who has a cameo in CHINATOWN, to Vlatka Fowkes, Beverly, Karen, Randi, and Katy; to Victor, the epitome of musical Hip; to the friends of hot jazz who made the place so convivial.

LADY, BE EXQUISITE

This LADY is well beyond GOOD — as the Swinging Fundus (new to me) live up to their name, and helped immeasurably by master Dan Barrett, take the Gershwin song through a number of its jazz permutations, helpfully delineated in subtitles — ending with Lester Young’s 1936 solo. 

The band is from Bonn (say that quickly), and Dan often joins them.  This performance was filmed on August 14, 2009  at Jazzclub Mülheim (Germany).  The musicians are Armin Runge (b), Stefan Kurze (reeds), Oliver Richters (p, arr), Volker Albrecht (tb, voc, arr), and guest Rudolf “Pluto” Kemper (g).  And the band’s website is www.swinging-fundus.de
Deep thanks to the musicians for their easy heartfelt playing and to “ulivids” on YouTube for sharing this with us!

FROM THE ARCHIVES: JON-ERIK LEADS THE BAND (Sept. 2009)

Over the past five years, Jon-Erik Kellso is the musician I’ve had the most frequent opportunities to observe and appreciate.  And I keep coming back for more: he doesn’t run out of things to say; he doesn’t fall back on prepared solos; he takes risks; he balances technique and emotion, individuality and tradition superbly.  When he gets into what he calls “his happy place,” he has no equals!

So I offer this version of a rarely-played Twenties pop tune, DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (a memorable question for sure) that he played at Jazz at Chautauqua this last September.  His colleagues for this session were James Dapogny, Vince Giordano, and Arnie Kinsella in the rhythm section, with Dan Block, Bob Havens, and Bob Reitmeier in the front line.

In anyone else’s hands, a set-closer at this tempo (and with seventy or so years of performance convention behind it) would be simple and not always subtle: a rocketing tempo, a long drum solo, and horn solos without much support from the band.  You’ve all seen such performances: Fast becomes Faster and the soloists are left on their own while the front line waits its turn off to the side.  Not so here.  Jon-Erik learned a great deal about leading an ensemble from the Master, Ruby Braff, who knew how to keep monotony at bay.  Without pushing anyone around, Jon knows how to lead an ensemble.  So, in this performance, he wisely extends the opening ensemble chorus into a second one (honoring New Orleans traditions all the way up to the present — why let the emotional temperature drop?).  And while the wonderful rhythm section is cooking away, Jon motions to the horns who aren’t soloing to play “footballs,” whole-note harmonies, musical and emotional choirs giving strength to the band.  His own solo (which plays with a phrase from Bob Reitmeier’s outing) gets a well-deserved thumbs-up.

And everyone floats on the momentum: Dapogny takes risks that come off; Vince Giordano and Arnie Kinsella exchange comments, witty and thunderous, becoming the twentieth-century version of Milt Hinton and Jo Jones — which leads to the closing ensemble.  Thinking orchestrally, Jon-Erik guides the horns into a soft passage (you have to play softly to shout it out at the end) and we romp home.  Even the still photographer in the plaid shirt, who sweetly yet obliviously blocked my view, couldn’t stifle my joy.  Or ours, I trust.

Swing, you cats!  

IN FRONT OF OUR EYES (Chautauqua 2009)

Here are songs from the very first informal set of music at the 2009 Jazz at Chautauqua, where we watched and heard our heroes create. 

People for whom jazz is a foreign language ask, “How do they do that, I mean, without music in front of them?  How do they know what they’re doing?”  The answer, of course, is a mix of skill, experience, and daring, beyond mastery of one’s instrument: knowing the chord changes to YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY is one preliminary step; knowing how to play whatever comes to mind another; knowing what not to play a third; having the courage to follow one’s impulses perhaps the final and greatest step.  No amount of immersion in the jazz tradition, no amount of studying recordings, can make up for an absence of courage and playfulness.

Inspired playfulness was evident all through the first set — with musicians who don’t always have the opportunity to get together and exchange ideas: Andy Schumm, cornet; Andy Stein, forsaking his violin for the baritone sax; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; James Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; John Von Ohlen, drums.  A close observer will notice a good deal of making-it-up-as-we-go-along here . . . which is not the same thing as uncertainty or tentativeness.  Rather, it is a willingness to invent while the car is in fourth gear, to say, “Let’s try this and not worry too much whether it’s perfect or not.”  That attitude can add up to train wrecks when less inspired players gather; here, it made some great loose playing possible.  You will notice, as a wonderful added benefit, the smiles on the musicians’ faces, their attentive listening to each others’ solos.  Viewers who like their videos uncluttered will have to get used to the backs of people’s heads in front of me — I could identify most of them as friends! — but their rhythmic bobbing and weaving doesn’t distract from the experience: it’s a pleasure to see the audience, attentive and quiet, but having a fine time.   

The first song is an exploration of a Twenties composition, attractive because its twists and turns aren’t overfamiliar: WABASH BLUES.  I admire the rocking motion of that rhythm section, at once intense and cool; Dapogny’s solo (it would have been perfectly in place in a Chicago joint circa 1933), Reitmeier and Barrett, building splendid solos out of logically-connected short phrases; Andy Schumm, rough-housing and tumbling around in his surprising Wild Bill Davison manner, and an especially impassioned Andy Stein — before the ensemble rocks it all out:

A trotting version of THE SHEIK OF ARABY ewcalled a Red Nichols-Jack Teagarden record of 1929, where Teagarden improvised a stirring solo over the band’s humming the straight melody behind him.  SHEIK is sometimes taken much faster; I admire this band’s steady lope:

Dan Barrett, like Duke Heitger, likes to begin performances of YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY with the rather-rare verse, and this performance took off from his outlining the brief melody.  This version tipped its collective cap to Louis and to the Bennie Moten band and its later Kansas City incarnations.  Barrett, suggesting that being driven crazy could be pleasurably romantic, quotes both SAY IT and the verse to LOVE IN BLOOM, with whatever associations imaginable:

I could write more about these performances, but I’m going to watch them again.  You come, too.

JAZZ BRILLIANCE AT THE EAR INN

Sunday, September 6, 2009, was my first visit to The Ear Inn after a summer’s hiatus. 

The music I heard there was uplifting, with a Labor Day holiday weekend version of the EarRegulars: cornetist Dan Tobias, alto saxophonist Michael Hashim, gutiarist James Chirillo, and bassist Frank Tate — with violinist Valerie Levy sitting in for two songs in the second set. 

I brought my video camera, as I had done at Whitley Bay, to capture the proceedings in cinematographic splendor.  And I did, although less than splendidly.  The Ear is rarely brightly lit (although occasionally strings of tiny white bulbs come to life, suggesting Christmas for non-sectarian audiences) but that night the ambiance was especially murky.  So the videos that follow are occasionally blurry and consistently grainy. 

Mea cinema culpa, I say.  Readers who object to having their jazz turned noir (Dan’s shirt was a series of vivid pastels) should avert their gaze.  But the music is so restorative that I hope they can listen while doing something else.*

About the band.  Dan Tobias is a wonderful, intuitive player, someone who would have been welcome on Fifty-Second Street or at a Keynote Records session.  He has a glowing tone but can also growl and soar, although he usually takes the compact middle-register paths of Buck Clayton and Bobby Hackett.  This night he reminded me of Roy Eldridge, of the Thirties Ellington and Basie brass, of Joe Thomas and Shorty Baker.  Need I say more?  Dan is also a genial ad-hoc bandleader: almost every number ended with a series of Kansas City riffing outchoruses created on the spot.  Michael Hashim has spectacular technique and musical wit.  His bubbling personality has so many sides that it’s like a full sax section on the gig.  There’s the Johnny Hodges balladeer; the rhythm and blues crowd-inciter; Pete Brown’s love-child; the King of Arpeggios.  He only got paid once on Sunday, a pity.  James Chirillo’s solos are full of brilliant tumbling lines (yet every note rings and has a purpose), happily weird dissonances, a sonic spectrum that goes from pastoral whisperings to twangy Fifties chords to hints of electronic music.  He’s never predictable, and his rhythm is a wondrous force.  Frank Tate was there two years ago on the EarRegulars’ first gig.  Frank can walk the chords with a resonance and rightness that suggests Walter Page, and his melodic inventions catch the ear (fitting for someone who learned a great deal from playing alongside Bobby Hackett).  When the music heats up, many bassists get carried away: Frank swings hard but is the epitome of steadiness. 

Let’s start with IF DREAMS COME TRUE — the property of Billie Holiday, also James P. Johnson, Teddy Wilson, and Buck Clayton — here a trotting conversation among friends:

A Duke Ellington medley is often formulaic, stringing together “greatest hits” as Duke himself did — almost as if to get it over so that the crowd would go home happy they had heard SATIN DOLL.  This version is anything but cliched; it begins with DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME, where Hashim does Hodges perfectly, then the quartet gets serious for Danny’s SOLITUDE, full of mournful growls (bringing together Arthur Whetsol and Clark Terry), and James’s pensive WARM VALLEY brings everyone together in a deliciously hymning way:

Jazz musicians keep coming back to Irving Berlin’s melodies, even those that seem most simple, and ALL BY MYSELF (a favorite of Kenny Davern) should be played more often — especially as it is here:

Performed as an unstated homage to Bix (catch the first chorus) and to Eddie Condon (throughout), SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL is one of those happy oddities that blossomed through Twenties and Thirties pop music — a song that should properly be melancholy but is a real romp.  Notice James’s brilliant introduction, and Danny’s invitation to the ball game:

On a “gal” kick?  Who knows, but the next tune called was the old favorite MY GAL SAL:

Another “Dixieland” tune, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, is fun to play, even if the band neatly sidesteps the stop-time patter vocal chorus:

Valerie Levy, a classically-trained violinist who’s also got a great deal of experience playing the American Songbook (and who also happens to be Mrs. Chirillo), joined the band for a lovely EMBRACEABLE YOU:

I try to request songs infrequently, but my restraint gave way.  Not only did I ask Danny if the band would play I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, but I pushed presumption to its limits by asking for a slow-medium tempo.  Danny agreed, and I got to record this wonderful performance:

I remember Davern calling I WANT TO BE HAPPY at the extraordinary concert Hank O’Neal put on at the New School in 1972 (the other participants: Condon, Wellstood, Davison, and Krupa) and Davison leering at the crowd, “Don’t we all!”  We still do:

Finally, for this post, POOR BUTTERFLY, a sideways memory of the suffering operatic heroine:

Some band! — even through the murk and blur.

*If anyone can recommend a hard-drive compact video camera that functions well in low light, I would be grateful.  I’m using a Sony DCR SR 220. . . .

NICK WARD: PERCUSSION’S KNIGHT

I had heard the British jazz drummer Nick Ward on several compact discs before visiting the most recent Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, and looked forward to seeing him play.  (He has the Kevin Dorn Seal of Approval, which counts a great deal.) 

My drumming idols all were and are masterful sound-creators, varying timbres and emphases as they move from one part of their drum kit to another.  It isn’t a restless, impatient varying of sound — Jo Jones could stay on his hi-hat for choruses if it felt right to him and to the band — but these drummers are great listeners, commenting on and participating in the collective musical improvisation that flows from them and around them.

Nick Ward embodies what’s best in jazz drumming, empathic, swinging, never overbearing.  He’s not afraid to vary what he’s doing as the situation demands, but will explore the possibilities of one sound for a period of time, getting the beauty of it hot, as someone in a T.S. Eliot poem says.  His rimshots are perfect punctuations; his snare-drum roll is smoother than the law allows; he is visually as well as aurally gratifying. 

Here Nick is driving and encouraging a whole raft of clarinet players — some whose names have eluded me! — in a session, CLARINET CRESCENDO, led by the brilliant reedman Matthias Seuffert.  On the bandstand are Aurelie Tropez and Stephane Gillot, of the Red Hot Reedwarmers, Janet Shaw from Canada, and a rhythm section of Brian Chester, piano; Rachel Hayward, banjo and guitar, and Henry Lemaire, bass.  They romp through a nearly ten-minute heated tribute to Jimmie Noone and James P. Johnson, jamming happily on the latter’s A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID.  And all this musical bliss took place on July 11, 2009.  Not 1930, but now!

I read somewhere that the British monarchy awards knighthoods for “services rendered to society.”  Jelly Roll Morton wrote a song in which the King made Jelly a Lord for his hot piano.  I hope that the Queen sees this clip: arise, Sir Nick Ward!

“YEAH, MAN!” (BIX 2009)

Jamaica Knauer, the patron saint of Midwestern Hot Jazz on video (now there‘s a mouthful of Homeric epithet) very generously uploaded two more of her videos from the 2009 Bix Beiderbecke Festival on YouTube for our collective joy and enlightenment.  To quote Milt Hinton, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like broccoli!”*

Here are “Bix and His Chicago Gang,” fervent and expert, captured live at Fitzgerald’s — in tuxedos, no less.  They are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; John Otto, bass sax; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums.  First, one of the affectionate songs of the late Twenties, MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.  (Cutty Cutshall, that Condon stalwart, used to call it MAHONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.) 

There are too many delightful details to absorb in one viewing, but the band does the very pleasing thing of returning to the verse several times during this performance, making the most of the possibilities of changing from verse to chorus more than once.  It’s a lovely idea, now abandoned in favor of playing chorus after chorus on the theme, which can (I write this in a whisper) become monotonous.  Notice also how many times one of the musicians is grinning because of something another player has just created, and you know that those smiles aren’t “counterfeited glee” for the benefit of the audience.  This band rocks without raising its voice or accelerating its pace. 

The second performance has nothing to apologize for, even though the source material is the tune SORRY.  Jamaica had to switch from one memory card to another in mid-performance, cutting off a bit of Paul Asaro’s striding solo, but I’m so glad she caught what she did.  And the gap in the middle is in itself nostalgic, reminding all of us of those radio airshots captured on 10″ 78 rpm blanks that have a chorus or two we have to imagine — while the diligent recordist tried to turn the acetate over as quickly as possible or put another blank on the turntable.  Heroically done, Jamaica; romping hot jazz, O you Bixians! 

And my title is more than just a Twenties and Thirties exultation, although it would do just fine on that basis: in 1933, Bing Crosby was asked to fill out a questionnaire — favorite color, music, books, and the like.  When it got to “favorite expression,” that’s the one he thought of.  “Yeah, man!” indeed!

 *And if you don’t like broccoli, perhaps it’s because someone’s been overcooking it: try removing it from the heat when it’s still got some life in it.  Late-life culinary conversions are both possible and uplifting!

CAPTAIN VIDEO! KELLSO AND FRIENDS, NOV. 9, 2008

Here’s a sampling of the remarkable jazz that Jon-Erik Kellso and Friends (Peter Reardon-Anderson, tenor and clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Kelly Friesen, bass; Andrew Swann, drums) played last Sunday at Sweet Rhythm, 88 Seventh Avenue South (5-7 PM).  I’m still a novice cinematographer — someone who accidentally cuts off the top of heads — but the sound is good, so perhaps that counts for more?

First, the lovely Harry Barris song, immortalized by Bing and Louis, “I Surrender, Dear”:

Then, the Twenties pop hit, “Linger Awhile,” a jam tune much beloved of Forties players (Dicky Wells, Lester Young, and Bill Coleman did it magnificently on Signature).  This version has a wonderfully twisty line, courtesy of Master Kellso, who calls his creation “Stick Around.”  Somehow, that line summons up the 1945 band Coleman Hawkins led, with Howard McGhee, Sir Charles Thompson, Oscar Pettiford, Denzil Best, and (memorably) Vic Dickenson.  Do you agree?  (Wily man that he is, Jon-Erik quotes Mingus’s “Fables of Faubus” on his first bridge, but I had to have it pointed out to me by another listener.)

and

And here’s that lively Sophie Tucker warning, “Some of These Days.”  This performance isn’t fast or loud, but it is the very definition of propulsive fun.  Everyone in this quintet has his own sound, but the ghosts of Louis, the entire Basie band, Ed Hall, Milt Hinton, and Jo Jones were grinning, too:

The next two performances take us back to the glory days of 1938 — the hot summer when the Basie band appeared at the Famous Door, jammed in next to one another.  Here’s Eddie Durham’s “Topsy,” a minor blues with a bridge:

From the same blue-label Decca period, here’s Herschel Evans’s “Doggin’ Around,” taken at just the right tempo:

Finally, in quite a different mood but just as impassioned, here is bassist Kelly Friesen’s eloquent version of the Ellington classic “All Too Sooon”:

If you’re looking for more of the same on YouTube, Jim Balantic (jazz fan and DVD videographer) captured this group doing a swinging “Limehouse Blues.”  His account is called “recquilt,” and it should come up when these videos are selected.

And on November 16 (that’s this coming Sunday) we should all extricate ourselves from our computers to meet up at Sweet Rhythm and see Jon-Erik, pianist Ehud Asherie, trombonist John Allred, Kelly Friesen, and Andrew Swann.

As rewarding as these video clips are, isn’t it better when the musicians are life-size?  I think so.

P.S.  That being said, look for my postings of video clips from Kevin Dorn and the Traditional Jazz Collective and two from the Cangelosi Cards with members of the TJC sitting in — captured at Banjo Jim’s on Monday, November 10, 2008.